CAUTION: Talking Required

Mental Health Awareness Week – a few words

Being national mental health awareness week and a topic I’m passionate about I thought I should take the opportunity to say a few words on the subject and why I think it’s so important.

For me mental health is even more important than our physical health. Generally, physically we improve and heal.  We understand what we need to do and we have places to seek assistance.  This is also true of mental health however yet it remains such a taboo subject.

Anxiety, sleep deprivation and relationships can all impact our mental health and, our mental health can affect our physical health in so many ways.  I know this from a personal perspective.  Having psoriasis, when I’m stressed, this for whatever reason exacerbates my psoriasis, which can then make me more stressed and even anxious!

Statistically, in construction you are six times more likely to die from mental health issues than fall from height.

Spending so much time in the workplace, our relationships with our co-workers can have impact on our mental health.  The daily stresses of work and the many conflicts that often arise can cause us stress and worry which can lead anxiety, sleep loss and even physical effects.  Given the amount of people we interact with on a project in construction, I imagine many of us feel burned out!

Having studied health psychology as part of my degree, a subject I found fascinating, there are so many ways that our psyche impacts on our physical wellbeing – and indeed how it can improve it.  Take burn patients for example.  If we distract them with the use of virtual reality, even severe burns patients feel no pain when having their dressings replaced.  The mind is such a powerful tool and we need to look after it.

Statistically, in construction you are six times more likely to die from mental health issues than fall from height.  As a sector with a demographic that has the highest suicide rates (white, male and aged between 20-40) it’s an important issue to raise and start to get people talking.

It’s good to talk

Just talking in itself lifts so much weight off a person’s shoulder.  Often many people feel they have no to talk to, despite the fact that many of their co-workers may feel that anyone can come and talk to them!  It is not always evident, if at all, what is going inside people’s heads.  The mind is complex and works in mysterious ways.  What might seem such a small insignificant thing to one person can affect another deeply.

So, what can you do for those who feel they have no one to turn to, especially when we don’t even know who these people are?  Raising awareness and signposting within the workplace is a good start.  Often people don’t know where to look even though there is lots of support available.  Having posters up around sites and in communal areas will help to raise awareness.

Introducing the topic in meetings, tool box talks or wherever you feel it will slot in will also help to get mental health on the agenda and get people talking.  Once we get people talking and make is as normal a talking about breaking a bone on site, then we’ll have made progress.   Once we do get people talking, we need to take the time to listen to them.  Really listen to them so they feel that they are being supported and understood.  Compassion is a basis of human nature and perhaps why we have such high mental health statistics in the first place as often we don’t ‘really listen’.

So, if someone does come to you or you spot signs that something doesn’t seem right, take some time and see if you can open up a conversation and’ listen’.

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