Mike Gear hails from the days of WA’s mining industry when men experiencing personal struggles were told to “toughen up” and “get over it” — and he admits he was quick to use such phrases 30 years ago.

In those days, particularly on remote work sites, he says workers would “drink away” any problems and be loath to speak about mental health.

Mr Gear says he feels guilty about his part in that culture, and the loss since of mates and colleagues to suicide has motivated him to do his bit to change it.

He advocates for charity MATES in Construction, which works to tackle the high rate of suicide in the industry.

“As a supervisor, I used to say ‘toughen up’, and I never took the time to listen to what issues they had,” he said. “But now I’ve learnt to listen, which is the key. MATES is having a real impact on the ground.”

Joyce Gibson slipped into depression after her parents died from cancer. But support from her husband Brian and a call to the Samaritans helped her come through a difficult stage in her life.

MATES Chief Executive Brad Geatches said the competitive, insecure nature of the industry was in part responsible for the many workers experiencing distress.

“Society is generally becoming more aware of the issue of mental health and suicide, it’s coming out of the shadows, stigmas are breaking down,” he said.

Today is R U OK? day, which Mental Health Minister Roger Cook said had a key role in de-stigmatising mental health.

“We are seeing a lot more discussion about mental health in the community more broadly,” he said.

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