Mates in mining and construction fly a flag for suicide prevention on RU OK? Day in Newcastle and the Hunter

Flag flying: On R U OK? Day, a Hansen Yucken construction site in Newcastle flies the Mates in Construction flag. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Flag flying: On R U OK? Day, a Hansen Yucken construction site in Newcastle flies the Mates in Construction flag. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TEN years ago, Andrew McMahon “had it made”.

He had scored a dream job at a gas plant near the 12 Apostles in Victoria, and life was good.

But work pressures began to build, and escalate. The stress became intense.

And while driving home from work after a 20-hour shift one day, he turned a corner and saw a tree.

“The thought popped into my head, for the first time ever, that it could be the answer to my problems,” he said.

It wasn’t.

“Back then, in rural Victoria, the advice was to go to the GP and get a tablet, and you’ll be Ok. But I wasn’t OK. And it took moving back to Sydney to get some real help.

“When I was in a position in the mining industry to be able to make some change, I wanted to make sure that no matter where you lived, you could get some help.”

Now the chief executive of Mates In Mining, Mr McMahon said close to 1000 mining and construction sites across Australia – including many in the Hunter – would be “flying a flag” on Thursday.

“Mates in Mining, and our sister organisation, Mates in Construction, partner with RU OK? Day, and we call it Fly the Flag Day.

“The flags are a visual reminder to stop and take a moment to re-commit to being a mate who will look out for a mate. To have that 10 seconds of courage to say, ‘Hey mate, are you OK?’”

Mates in Mining chief, Andrew McMahon.

Mates in Mining chief, Andrew McMahon.

Some sites go “the whole hog”. They read out a pledge, and sign the flag to commit to looking out for each other. They don’t want to lose a mate to suicide. 

“We know it’s a problems in the Australian community,” Mr McMahon said.

“We know we lose eight Australians a day, and six of those are blokes.

“And being from two very male dominated industries, we know it’s happening.

“I say to the guys, ‘You don’t have to fix the problem, you just need to be a mate. Be there and listen, and connect them to the right help.”