For most tradies, the first thing that comes to mind when you mention “work” and “health” in the same sentence is OH&S and staying safe on the job. That’s not surprising when you consider that the trades sector is one of the most dangerous industries in Australia. It’s responsible for more than half of all worker’s compo claims, yet makes up under a third of the workforce.
Staying in shape and eating right probably comes to mind too when talking about health. Indeed, heart disease is Australia’s leading cause of death and almost everyone is related to, knows someone, or may have first-hand experience with heart problems.
And yet, there’s one health condition that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. This is despite the fact that that one in five people experience it each year and one in two experience it in their lifetime.
What is this incredibly common health condition that so few people talk about?
Tradies and mental health
That figure just mentioned? One in five Australians experience a mental issue each year and one in two do so during their lifetime.
Yes, mental health issues like depression and anxiety are incredibly widespread, yet mental health isn’t something most tradies talk about during smoko or after knocking off. That’s even more surprising when you consider the many serious mental health concerns faced by people working in the trades sector.
Consider the following:
- Men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives
- The suicide rate among young tradesmen is 3 higher than for other men
- Construction workers are at least six times more likely to die by suicide than on workplace accidents
- 190 construction workers die by suicide each year in Australia.
Ideas to promote mental health at work
Think of looking after your mental health as another form of looking after your general health. Indeed, one of the best things you can do is to help raise awareness. Here are some great ideas to get you started.
1) Organise show bags or a display
Mental health organisations like MensLine Australia will gladly provide material to promote their helpful services. You can order promotional cards, postcards, flyers, posters and tip sheets, which will be mailed to you at no charge. Simply hand them out at work or put them on display. You can also download and either print or forward all items in PDF form.
2) Have a breakfast, morning tea or lunch
Why stop at just putting out some flyers and posters in the lunch room? Make an event out of it.
For a start, you’ll probably get a better response (it’s a simple fact of that people are more likely to turn up to something when there’s free food involved).
However, there’s another benefit that goes beyond just getting bums on seats. One reason why so many men struggle with their mental health is that many blokes might feel embarrassed, ashamed, or ‘weak’ if they open up. An event like this suddenly normalises talking about mental health and helps remove the stigma about this topic.
3) Arrange an activity like mindfulness
Mindfulness. Yeah, right. When do we break out the incense and New Age music?
You’d be forgiven if that was your first impression, but in actual fact, mindfulness is probably nothing like you imagine it to be.
In its simplest form, mindfulness (also called mindful meditation) is a ‘grounding’ technique. It helps deal with frustration, stress, anger and worry. It also helps improve focus, concentration and self-control.
As with so many things in life, don’t knock it until you try it. More professional people than ever are recognising the value of mindfulness, among them elite athletes and the armed forces of several countries.
Find out more about how easy it is to try mindfulness.
4) Arrange a screening or invite a speaker
A video (or series of videos) screening over lunch is a great way to help promote a helpful message. There are admittedly so many videos online that it might actually be hard to know where to start. One good way to go about it, is to do a search online for “tradies mental health”.
Video is surprisingly easy to share these days. Even if there are just a few of you who are watching, a tablet will often do. If you’ve got access to a TV (such as in a lunchroom) that allows for device streaming, then why not try that?
You can step things up to the next level if you know someone who can give a talk, or if you’ve managed to organise a speaker. Unlike video, you can ask questions afterwards and it comes with the benefit of live interaction.
Of course, if you’re battling with stress or worry, or just need to talk it out with someone, you can contact MensLine Australia at any time.
MensLine Australia is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with professional counsellors providing information and support for all emotional health and relationship issues.