Mental health in the construction industry

From the 12th until the 16th of July, MC Labour will be running its first mental health awareness week. The theme of the week is Mental Health Matters – Be kind to your mind

Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Each year, around 3000 Australians take their life. This number is higher than yearly deaths due to traffic accidents, homicide, and other assaults. Of this 3000, the number of men is significantly higher than women. 17% of all Australian suicides are work-related, with construction workers at a 53% higher risk than all other employed men in Australia.

Factors that influence mental health

Work and employment conditions

We spend a considerable amount of our daily lives at work, so it is important to have a positive work environment.
Work can have a very positive impact on an individual’s mental health by promoting social status, structure, a sense of identity and achievement, offering a source of self-esteem, and facilitating social contact. People who work tend to enjoy happier and healthier lives than those who do not.
Prolonged or excessive job stress, however, is a risk factor for poor mental health. Job stress factors include:

  • Job insecurity
  • Low job control
  • Excessive job demands
  • Low rewards for work
  • Poor working relationships with colleagues and supervisors
  • Bullying and harassment

Relationships

People with high levels of social support are more likely to be able to manage adverse life events than those with low levels of social support. Strong relationships with partners, family, colleagues, and friends can better protect individuals against mental health issues. 53.1% of all suicide fatalities had relationship problems in the form of separation or conflict in the three months preceding death.

Help-seeking stigma

Being able to seek help for mental health problems is key to recovery, yet only 25% of men are likely to seek help. A culture where mental health isn’t discussed or seeking help is viewed as weakness is common amongst construction workers. It is important to encourage discussion and understanding around mental health and offer help to individuals to break this stigma and ensure peers get the help they need.

Alcohol and drug use

Alcohol and drug use heightens pre-existing vulnerabilities to mental health conditions and thoughts about suicide. Despite this, it is common for men to use alcohol and drugs as a form of self-medication for poor mental health and stress. Construction workers who took their lives reported alcohol-related problems more than the general population.

Sleep and physical activity

Adequate sleep and being physically active are mental health protective factors as they provide respite and promote healthy chemical flows in the brain. Working in construction can negatively impact an individual’s quality of sleep and physical activity as it often involves long hours, physically taxing work, and work in hot, noisy, and dusty conditions. These conditions cause fatigue and are a risk factor for mental health problems.

Support services for Construction Workers

Incolink BlueHats Program

Those working in the construction industry are over 50% more likely to take their own lives. Male construction workers aged 15-24 are more than twice as likely to take their own lives, compared with the general population. Suicide in our industry is a major issue which requires an industry-lead solution.

First launched in October 2018, Bluehats was designed by industry, for industry as a peer-to-peer support network providing education, training and support to workers on a site-by-site basis.

In 2021, Incolink announced a refreshed Bluehats training model with the ability to deliver both on site and digitally.

As part of their refreshed Bluehats Program, they announceed critical new program partners, Worksafe Victoria and Cbus Super. The support of these partners ensures the Bluehats program has all the resources required to deliver a better program than ever before.

Phone 1300 000 129
Website https://www.incolink.org.au/wellbeing-supportservices

MATES in Construction

MATES provides suicide prevention through community development programs on sites, and by supporting workers in need through case management and a 24/7 help line. We serve the construction industry in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, the Energy industry in Queensland and New South Wales, and nationally to the Mining industry.

Phone 1300 642 111
Website https://mobileapp.matesinconstruction.org.au/construction/support

Breaking the stigma of mental health

46% of Australians experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime, yet less than half of all people with mental health conditions seek help; a disappointing 27.5% of males and 40.7% of females accessing services for mental health problems.

There are many factors that influence whether or not a person seeks help for their mental health, but a major factor is stigma. Many feel it is embarrassing and even shameful to talk about their mental health problems, and so avoid speaking up and seeking help.

Erasing the stigma around mental health is important in suicide prevention. It is important to recognise mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible. Often, people will speak with a friend, family member, or faith leader before they talk to a mental health professional. By becoming educated on mental health and suicide prevention, and taking steps to combat stigma, we will be able to support those in their recovery process and facilitate those seeking professional help.

What can I do to combat mental health stigma?

46% of Australians experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime, yet less than half of all people with mental health conditions seek help; a disappointing 27.5% of males and 40.7% of females accessing services for mental health problems.

There are many factors that influence whether or not a person seeks help for their mental health, but a major factor is stigma. Many feel it is embarrassing and even shameful to talk about their mental health problems, and so avoid speaking up and seeking help.

Erasing the stigma around mental health is important in suicide prevention. It is important to recognise mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible. Often, people will speak with a friend, family member, or faith leader before they talk to a mental health professional. By becoming educated on mental health and suicide prevention, and taking steps to combat stigma, we will be able to support those in their recovery process and facilitate those seeking professional help.

  1. Talk openly about mental health – The fact that it is common and treatable.
  2. Educate yourself and others –  Learn more about mental health recovery. By knowing the signs and how to get someone help, you can save a life.
  3. Be conscious of the language you use – Language matters. Don’t use terms as insults “crazy,” “maniac” or “psycho.” Always address the person first, not the illness.
  4. Treat physical and mental health equally –  Our mental and physical health impact one another; if you are physically unwell this can impact your mental health, and poor mental health can make us physically unwell. It is important to pay attention to, and care for, both your physical and mental health.
  5. Show compassion toward those with mental illness – Provide support in the same way you would if they had a physical illness. Call to check in, make a meal, offer to watch their children, visit them in the hospital, send an encouraging card.
  6. Let others know when they are stigmatizing mental health.
  7. Don’t silently endorse stigma by saying nothing.

“Ways to look after your mental well being

There are many ways we can look after our mental health; whether it be through daily activities, exercise, nutrition, or mindfulness. It is important to remember that we are all different, and so what works for one person may not work for another. It is all about trial and error and doing what works and appeals to you.

Six daily things to try to  look after your mental health:

  • Spend time with others – Spending time with family or friends, meeting new people and getting involved in activities can make a difference to how you feel. Get involved in community activities, kick the footy around, go for a bike ride etc.
  • Do something creative – Activities or hobbies can keep you distracted, have a positive impact on your sense of mental health and wellbeing and can help increase your confidence and self-esteem. This could be building something, playing an instrument, gardening, art, doing a puzzle, painting, cooking, writing etc.
  • Invest time in relationships – Connecting with people and investing in good relationships are important for your mental health. Get in touch with people who you trust or feel good around. Give them a call, send them a message or organise to catch-up with them.
  • Focus on your strengths – Having positive thoughts can help you feel better.
  • Take time out to relax – When you relax, you give yourself permission to let go of worries for a while. Relaxing gives your mind and body time to recover from the stresses of everyday life.
  • Sleep well – We cannot function properly without sleep. Sleep helps us to repair and restore our bodies and minds.

Exercise

Exercise is important for your mental and physical health. It can improve sleep, reduce stress, help you relax, and overall make you feel better. Exercise releases serotonin and endorphins which are chemicals that improve your mood and make you feel good.

Some of the benefits of exercise include:

  • Boosting mood, concentration & alertness.
  • Improving sleep.
  • Distracting from unhelpful thoughts.
  • Providing opportunities to socialise and meet new people.
  • Increasing energy.
  • Bettering physical health.
  • Preventing/reducing anxiety and depression.

Nutrition

What you eat impacts how you feel. Eating a balanced, wholesome diet will improve your mental and physical health.

Little things to do to eat well and improve mental health:

  • Relax and enjoy a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Be mindful of the foods you eat.
  • Increase consumption of vegetables.
  • Increase consumption of probiotics to maintain gut health.
  • Avoid processed sugar and additives.
  • Increase consumption of foods with omega-3. Omega-3 has a positive influence on the brain and can help with depression.
  • Eat wholesome nutritious foods.
  • Choose healthy snack options.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is a depressant and has been linked to mental health issues.

Remember small changes to your diet can make a huge difference to your mental health, and that healthy eating is all about maintaining balance.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being in the present; not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It can help you feel better, reduce stress, and improve your overall wellbeing. When you are mindful you pay full attention to what is going on in the moment.

Some easy ways to practice mindfulness include:

  • Relax and enjoy a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Be mindful of the foods you eat.
  • Increase consumption of vegetables.
  • Increase consumption of probiotics to maintain gut health.
  • Avoid processed sugar and additives.
  • Increase consumption of foods with omega-3. Omega-3 has a positive influence on the brain and can help with depression.
  • Eat wholesome nutritious foods.
  • Choose healthy snack options.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is a depressant and has been linked to mental health issues.
  • Creative activities
  • Guided meditation
  • Spending time in nature
  • Reciting positive affirmations
  • Low-impact exercise such as walking or yoga.

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