Tackling mental health: It’s good to talk!
Long supply chains, withheld payments, slim profit lines, pressure from customers, job insecurity and that’s just the stresses of work. Don’t forget there’s also the pressures from home, nags from your partner to fix the taps, oh and the don’t forget the living room needs painting, and then there’s the kids arguing and pestering you for that trip to DisneyLand. All these extra stresses and strains can have a real impact on your mental health. We tend to look after and be far more aware of our physical health; we might head to the gym, pop out for a walk, swap that triple decker sandwich and chocolate for a salad every so often and take a few vitamins all in the name of keeping our physical self in tiptop condition but what do we do for our mental health? How do we look after our brain, one of the most vital organs in our body? It is important to act now and take care of our mental health so that we don’t become part of these recent shocking statistics:
350,000 of the 2.1million UK construction population are struggling with stress, depression and anxiety
2 construction workers taking their own lives every single day
The suicide rate among male labourers is 3.7 times higher than the national average
When does it become a problem?
We are already aware that mental health effects 1 in 4 people and that 57% of working days lost are attributed to mental health; in construction this equates to 400,000 working days lost per year. Your mental health becomes a problem when negative feelings persist and begin to get in the way of your day to day living. Mental health is all about the successful maintenance of your mind (just like the gym/healthy eating is contributing to successful maintenance of your body), so when we’re in a good mental headspace we are able to cope with stresses and adapt to change. Once we start to feel overwhelmed by stresses and this impacts on how we function on a daily basis it may be a problem that we need to address.
What are the signs?
With 44% of all work-related illness being caused by poor mental health, do you know what signs to look out for in your colleagues or even for yourself? If people are struggling with their mental health you may notice:
-Loss of interest and possible withdrawal from friends and activities
-Being more irritable than normal or even escalating to excessive anger, hostility or violence
-Generally feeling sad or down
-Excessive fears or worries, extreme feelings of guilt, paranoia and even hallucinations
-Changes in eating habits and/or alcohol/drug abuse
-Confusion or and trouble understanding or relating to situations
-Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
-Extreme mood changes possibly experiencing manic or hypermanic episodes or depressive episodes
-Lack of concentration
How to tackle it?
Though we know 350,000 construction workers suffer from stress, anxiety and depression yet amazingly 8 in 10 employers claim to have no employees disclosing a mental health condition. Does this mean many of us are suffering in silence?! Construction has never been a touchy-feely, shoulder-to-cry-on industry consequently many people will put on a front and disguise mental health issues that they see as a weakness or inadequacy. We need to break down these barriers and undo the ‘tough-guy’ stereotypes and realise that ‘it’s good to talk’ as Mr Bob Hoskins advocated many moons ago in the BT ads. Opening up about stress and anxiety will help to remove the stigma that many of us feel is attached to such issues and realise that there are many of us in the same boat. As well as being the able to talk make sure you are also the one listening and that means really listening not just taking in a conversation as background noise because there could be someone there that really needs a listening ear.
Prevention is better than cure
Talking is the number one strategy for tackling mental health issues but there are also other things you can do to keep your mind in check:
-Get outside, take a walk and listen to music
-Make time for you, this could be participating in sport, seeing friends, watching a film but always try and enjoy that moment in the present rather than picking apart situations that have already happened or you mind running away thinking about what you’ve still got to do
-Use stress managements apps such as calm or headspace
-Get enough sleep and this may also include ditching social media that takes up that precious resting time pre-sleep or post-waking
Where to find help
Construction Industry Helpline: 0345 605 1956 (there is also a Construction Industry Helpline app)
Workplace mental health support service: 0300 4568114
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): 0800 58 58 58