‘He just felt there was no way out’
ON THE surface, Brodan Aylott had it all.
But underneath, the 24-year-old was hiding a secret from his girlfriend and family about his financial situation. A debt so big, the stress became too much.
On Mother's Day this year, the bricklayer - who owned his own business and home by the age of 22 - took his own life.
"I think it was such a large amount and so much money he was owing to his workers and debts that he just felt there was no way out," she said.
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"His partner would say to him, what's wrong, she could feel something was wrong, and he would say I don't want to talk about it, leave it alone.
"He didn't want to be seen as a failure. He wanted people to be proud of him."
Ms Robertson said her son didn't open up about his struggles because of the "macho" culture within tradesmen, but hopes his story encourages other to speak of their demons.
"Men don't like to show their emotions anyway and therefore if they're struggling, they'd rather not share the problems and issues that are happening in their lives," she said.
"It's just such a big issue at the moment and it's going to get worse."
Over a five-year period from 2012 to 2016, the average number of suicide deaths per year was 2795. In 2015, the overall suicide rate in 2015 was 12.6 per 100,000 in Australia. This is the highest rate in 10-plus years.
According to Lifeline, deaths by suicide in Australia occur among males at a rate three times greater than that for females. However, during the past decade, there has been an increase in suicide deaths by females.
In an interview with news.com.au in November last year, Jorgen Gullstrup, CEO of Mates in Construction (which focuses on helping men in the industry), said that mental health issues tend to result from "accumulations of what happened at home and what happened at work and all of it … so it's not that easy to say it happened because of this or because of that".
While it is therefore hard to put a finger on a simple cause of suicide, one helpful theory lists three conditions, which are all present for construction workers.
"One of them is a torn sense of belonging, they might not feel that people don't still love them but they feel they don't belong to anyone and they're disconnected," Mr Gullstrup said.
"The second thing is that people start feeling they're a burden to others and the third thing is that people have the ability to actually do self harm.
"When you look at the construction industry and the challenging conditions we often work under, it doesn't do much for good connections. The industry is an industry where we work six-day weeks, we work very long hours. We often work away from home. We work for small business generally and very often with very low job security. For a construction worker, eight hours' notice is job security … If you then on top of that lose your job then it's not that hard to feel that you are actually a burden to your family.
"Construction workers are very practical people, we are problem solvers, which means the act of suicide is well within our means, it's well within what we can do," he said.
"So we have all three risk factors."
In addition, these workers are often in the highest risk social categories too - male, with lower levels of formal schooling - and indeed, it is builders, labourers and operators who are at a highly elevated risk of suicide, while the rate among tradies is slightly below average.
- with Emma Reynolds
DO YOU, OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW, NEED HELP?
• Beyondblue (1300 22 4636) for 24-hour phone support, online chat, resources and apps.
• Mindout for mental health and suicide support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
• Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 - free confidential 24-hour counselling for young people aged five to 18.