No one wants to believe it can happen to them. And perhaps it might not be so scary if it didn’t go straight to the heart of who we are and what we believe we can do. Mental health problems are difficult to address – both individually, in our relationships and in the workplace. But, as with everything else, making the first move - although it is often the hardest - is generally also the first step on any road to recovery.
Good mental health is every bit as important as being physically fit. Having a mental illness can be every bit as debilitating. The trouble is that everyone can see when you have a broken leg or sympathise with a colleague who, due to occupational exposure to dust, now needs to use oxygen. But depression and anxiety – just two of the conditions thought to be more prevalent among construction workers than practically any other professional group – are invisible, silent and frequently isolating, making the problem so much worse. Issues around alcoholism, drug misuse and gambling can also beset construction workers who are often far away from family support for long periods of time. There can be a shouty bullying culture on site where one workers misery is too often excused as banter by colleagues. Forward thinking employers – such as EDF on its major site at Hinkley C – are trying hard to address issues but it remains the case that, in such a male-dominated environment, it can be very hard to tell anyone you are suffering.
The male bias in construction continues to make a bad situation worse. Men, on the whole, have been found to leave going to see medical professionals about any complaint far longer than women. This is true of every medical condition from cancer to tooth decay but it is particularly the case with mental health problems where there sadly remains a fear you’ll been seen as a sissy to be sad.
It’s a tough nut to crack. The construction sector still has a tendency to think people can just get on with things and should stop complaining. But depression is not just a fit of the blues or occasional low mood and other mental health conditions every bit as much an illness as measles. It’s just not so obvious. Mental health problems, left untreated can be devastating and sometimes life threatening. We all must be more open to talking about it.
With this in mind, next week – Thursday 10 October 2019 – is World mental Health Day – and APS will be highlighting the initiative with a week-long focus on what can be done to support suffers and the help available to employers. The association and colleagues across the construction sector will be signposting information and resources throughout the week. APS will be starting on Monday with how to embed wellbeing in construction.
Find out more about World Mental Health Day on the right of this page and you can visit our resource page (on the right) for links to a range of organisations that can help, support, train and advise on mental health for construction, organisations and individuals.
Look out for more on social media @apstalk and follow specific hashtags: @WMHday, #MentalHealthDay, #WorldMentalHealth