Courage creates a leader in the mental health space

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Overcoming stress and mental illness can take genuine courage and commitment and while it’s not always easy, it can be done.

Ryan Jenkins, Site Supervisor at Tass Construction Group (pictured above), has shown that seeking help, overhauling your outlook, and implementing daily practices can help you bounce back from a mental health condition, even one that lands you in hospital.

Ryan’s mental health journey started several years ago after being promoted to foreman in his previous job. Still in his early 20s and suddenly in charge of a significant renovation, Ryan came face-to-face with his first difficult client. Every day became a nightmare for Ryan, who constantly fielded the client’s abuse.

“This was the first time I encountered anyone or any stress like that. I didn’t know at the time just how much it was mentally and physically affecting me,” Ryan says.

“I remember a drive to work when everything started to go downhill. I was light-headed, very fatigued, and having hot flushes.”

Feeling like he had a virus, Ryan woke one night with the sudden urge to be sick. Jumping out of bed, he flicked on the light as his heart rate skyrocketed. This moment was soon identified as Ryan’s first panic attack and it landed him in hospital.

Following an MRI, the doctors told Ryan he had a large mass in the middle of his brain. They operated in the following days, but Ryan’s condition didn’t improve.

Three weeks later, a follow-up with a specialist showed that Ryan’s blood pressure was still critically high at 180/110. In other words, off the charts.

“The specialist looked at me and said, ‘I now believe what brought you to hospital and what you are going through is caused by stress’,” Ryan recalls.

Ryan had a lightbulb moment and it all began to make sense. Back home, Ryan researched strategies to overcome stress and anxiety, started acupuncture, saw a naturopath, and implemented daily meditation and gratitude practices.

Slowly but surely, he began to feel better, as he employed strategies to be calmer, more present and more resilient when facing stress. Ryan’s anxiety disappeared – not because the stresses in his life had gone but rather because he made the decision to deal with them differently.

Through his experience, Ryan has developed a passion for talking about mental health.

“Sadly over my life, I’ve known six people who have committed suicide and others who have attempted it – all men in their 20s and early 30s,” Ryan says.

“It’s easy to walk into a conversation and talk about Covid, but it’s hard to walk into a conversation and discuss your feelings – to let the group know you’re feeling depressed or you’re stressed out or anxious.

“Hiding your feelings, bottling them up. That’s not tough for me anymore. It’s good that we’re starting to generate chat about mental health. No one can tell you that the way you feel is wrong because it’s the way you feel.”

Fostering good mental health onsite

Learning from his own experience, Ryan strives to foster a positive culture within his teams onsite. Luckily, Aaron and Ben Tass, directors of Tass Construction Group, have already set the standard — from the ground up, they instill a culture based on trust, respect and camaraderie.

“We want to make sure everyone is rocking up to work and working with like-minded people,” Ryan says.

“Negativity gets addressed straight away. You’re there all day with the same people. We need to make sure that everyone is bringing the good vibes.

If someone is feeling stressed out, I support them, taking time to sit down and talk with them. There are no problems, only puzzles. If something goes wrong onsite, then we take the opportunity to learn so that we don’t
do it again.

A lot of the boys now open up to me. They know that there’s a compassionate ear that is listening” Ryan says.

Raising awareness

Fostering good mental health doesn’t stop onsite, with the Sutherland Shire-based building company also dedicated to supporting its local community.

The team has been running annual in-house charity days for mental health for several years now. Wanting to create a bigger impact, Ryan, together with Brad Smith and Josh Jones from the Tass team, joined forces with locals Josh Landsberry and Amelia Kemp to recently host the first Shine Bright Night.

Sponsored by Tass Construction Group, the gala event set out to shine a light on the darkness of mental illness and work towards ending suicide. A massive success, the event raised $130,000 to fund free mental health workshops in the local shire for anyone in the community to attend.

“That night was just the start of something. Now we can continue to hold that event every year,” Ryan says.

There is no doubt that Ben, Aaron and Ryan and the rest of the team at Tass will continue to do great things both on and off the building site.

Dahlsens is incredibly proud to support Tass and continue the mental health conversation, both within our team and the communities in which we operate.

If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1800 512 348.