Jadiael Tekii uses his own mental health experience to help men in Rockhampton with Project Blokes

Jadiael Tekii remembers the night he thought he had put his children to bed for the last time.

WARNING: This story contains references to suicide.

That was three years ago, and he planned to end his life the next day.

But a phone call from his girlfriend and then another from a friend stopped him.

“I had gotten to the point where in my head no one wanted me here anymore and I actually felt like a burden on my own family and on my children,” Mr Tekii said.

He has since drawn on his experience with depression and anxiety to create Project Blokes, a group in Rockhampton that aims to make men more comfortable talking about their mental health.

Lifeline reports that 75% of people who die by suicide in Australia are men and Mr Tekii wants to improve men’s health.

Mr. Tekii shares his experience on a construction site.(Provided: Project Blokes)

Project Blokes organizes group walks for men, as well as workplace information sessions to raise awareness about mental health and connect people to support.

“We do a check-in of the men every fortnight… we’ll have about 10, 14 guys on average,” he said.

“We’re just going around and really going through what was a win and what was a struggle…we want people to share a win and something that they’ve overcome.”

A space to be “fully vulnerable”

Nick Grieves first attended a Project Blokes walk after seeing a psychologist through his work, who suggested he contact a local group for help.

“I was going through a difficult period at work, I had just started a maturity apprenticeship, so I had given up [earning] about $10 an hour,” he said.

“I was rock bottom and didn’t really feel manly.

“Walking around rather than going to the pub…all the guys there are totally vulnerable.

“There are no beers, no pokies in the background, you’re just there to get stuff off your chest and it’s just a safe space.”

A man with tattoos and facial hair smiles.  He gives a thumbs up
Mr Grieves says the group helped him realize that other people were going through similar challenges in life.(Provided: Project Blokes)

Mr Grieves said the group introduced him to coping strategies, such as breath work, and now he volunteers with Project Blokes to help others.

“It’s unreal, it changed my life,” he said.

A man wearing a flannel shirt smiling in front of green foliage
Mr Tekii says he has had 18 months of intensive therapy and is now enjoying life.(ABC Capricorn: Jasmine Hines)

Mr Tekii said the men often felt pressure to provide for their families and the group focused on helping the men find their identity outside of the provision.

He said he also thinks traditional stereotypes of men are damaging their mental health.

“It’s about reframing and changing the culture of how strong men should be,” he said.

“It’s not really about standing up, it’s about being strong like ‘this is what I’m going through’ and being vulnerable and open to talking about this stuff.”

Mental health stigma

Lifeline’s Queensland director, Geoffrey Norman, said projects like Mr Tekii’s encourage conversations about mental health.

“It’s a fantastic initiative…it’s a deliberate reason to get together and talk about things, and it doesn’t have to be therapy…but to get together and get out and walk around, do it in an environment healthy is a real positive,” Norman said.

“We know that men are less likely to seek help. There is still a stigma around asking for help, talking about things and really getting help and support.

“There are also not as many opportunities or times when men feel comfortable talking about their worries or concerns.”

Men walking along a path together
Men on a Project Blokes march in Rockhampton.(Provided: Project Blokes)

Mr Norman said that if people notice someone else struggling, to take note of changes in behavior and talk to that person about the observations in a non-confrontational and caring way.

Mr Tekii said he wanted to share his story so other men would feel less alone.

“We’re just average Australians who want to help other guys,” he said.

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