Don’t mask your feelings

Westmead Hospital operating theatre nurse Brian Freeth is encouraging staff to speak up and ask for help.

Five men take their own life every day in Australia.

Depression and mental illness is one of the key focus areas for Men’s Health Week as the country aims to improve health outcomes for men.

Men die younger than women, suffer from more lifestyle-related health conditions, are less frequent visitors to general practitioners, and are four times more likely to commit suicide.

Mental health is a particular concern for Western Sydney Local Health District, as research suggests health professionals are at a greater risk of anxiety, depression and suicide.

Theatre nurse Brian Freeth has seen the consequences of poor mental health in his 24 years at Westmead Hospital.

His advice for health professionals: talk to the people around you.

Men are often less likely than women to talk about their feelings, but it takes strength to be vulnerable and let the mask drop.

“When you work in this area it is full-on. There are quiet days, and there days you feel like will never end, but if you push through there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Brian said.

“There are people around you can talk to and it makes the burden of the day-to-day stress more bearable.”

Brian said it takes time and experience to learn how to handle a high-pressure environment, and he sees it as his responsibility to share that advice with new staff.

“You should go into nursing with an open mind and learn as much as you can, then after 10 or 12 months take a proper break and get away for a few weeks so you can come back refreshed and renewed,” he said.

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available for staff members and family with any issues or concerns, with free and confidential access to counselling services.

Find out more on the intranet or at

Beyond Blue also has resources for health professionals, including a guide to creating mentally healthy workplaces.

If you or someone you know someone is struggling, there is help available:

  • Mental Health Hotline (Open 24 Hours) – 1800 011 511
  • Doctors Health Advisory Unit Helpline (NSW) – 02 9437 6552
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 46  36
  • Men’s Help – 1300 78 99 78
  • JMO Support Line – 1300 566 321