Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

 
Time to look after our health

Time to look after our health

Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

 November 2019    RTF News

The recent RTF Conference at Wairakei Resort, near Taupō, gave me an opportunity to catch up with delegates from all over the country.

It was a really good chance to hear about what is challenging them in their businesses. These chats are important for me, as a lot of the time I am in the Wellington bubble, lobbying government.

I am conscious of regularly being in touch with what is affecting operators in the regions, and I travel as much as I can to ensure that.

The overall impression I got was that the industry is in good heart, but we face some challenges: The economic and political climate are uncertain and there is understandable concern at the goings-on at the New Zealand Transport Agency. Transport Minister Phil Twyford's recent NZTA board cleanout hasn't necessarily alleviated these concerns.

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The recent RTF Conference at Wairakei Resort, near Taupō, gave me an opportunity to catch up with delegates from all over the country.
It was a really good chance to hear about what is challenging them in their businesses. These chats are important for me, as a lot of the time I am in the Wellington bubble, lobbying government.
I am conscious of regularly being in touch with what is affecting operators in the regions, and I travel as much as I can to ensure that.
The overall impression I got was that the industry is in good heart, but we face some challenges: The economic and political climate are uncertain and there is understandable concern at the goings-on at the New Zealand Transport Agency. Transport Minister Phil Twyford's recent NZTA board cleanout hasn't necessarily alleviated these concerns.
One of the key challenges we face, and this is true of many male-dominated industries, is to properly look after our health. You only had to look around the room at Conference to see that many of us, and I don't exclude myself from this, are too busy in our careers to worry about such things as our physical and mental health.
I hoped that some of the speakers we had at Conference would help to wake up delegates to the dangers of that complacency and why it is leading to such bad health outcomes among men in this country.
Dr Tom Mulholland's presentation was punctuated with plenty of comedy and he told some incredibly entertaining stories from his time in public health advocacy and also from his own life.
However, this light-hearted discussion did not water down the message, which was that no matter how good you think your state of health is, you need to get a health check and regularly visit your doctor.
Dr Tom told stories of seemingly active and fit guys, marathon runners even, who neglected to go to the doctor and very nearly found out too late that they were suffering from dangerous, potentially life-threatening conditions.
For those of us who are husbands and fathers, we might not like going to the doctor but we have a responsibility to those who love and rely on us to take responsibility for our health, get checked up and – if we need to – start changing our lifestyle to better look after ourselves.
Dr Tom also touched on the importance of looking after our mental health. He told the story of his own brush with suicide following his marriage breakdown and showed that even for a successful, smart guy with a great career and with two kids who loved him to bits, how easy it is to descend into a state of desperation and depression.
That mental health message followed on from the hard-hitting presentation from Craig Membrey, who was keynote speaker on the Conference's first day.
Craig runs a successful heavy haulage and crane hire business near Melbourne and eight years ago mental health wasn't even on his radar. That all changed when his son Rowan committed suicide, in 2011.
Craig subsequently threw himself into suicide prevention advocacy work, spreading the message about the dangers of depression and anxiety.
Craig's simple message – and one that resonated with me – is that "suicide is 100% preventable." It sounds so obvious and is often overlooked, but it should give us a lot of hope. There is nothing to prevent us from beating suicide, except ourselves.
Like Dr Tom, Craig urged delegates to seek help, share their problems and surround themselves with family, friends and work colleagues. He asked us to look out for each other and if you see someone struggling, to put an arm around them and listen to their problems.
There's something about the NZ male culture that suggests we must suffer in silence. That is the worst thing we can do and has led NZ to have some of the highest rates of male suicide in the world.
I hope every delegate who heard Craig and Dr Tom at the Conference has taken their messages on board and is at least considering changes to how they look after themselves.
Finally, let me thank Region 2, CARTA and the Conference organising committee for the work they did in putting the Conference together. Running such an event is a difficult undertaking. Thankyou also to all the sponsors and delegates for contributing to a truly enjoyable two days..


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