8th October 2020
2020 has been a tough year for everyone, with uncertainties in almost every aspect of our lives creating anxiety and worry for many tradespeople across the UK. As we all deal with the impact COVID-19 has had, it’s important to consider not just our physical wellbeing, but also our mental health as we come towards the close of the year and focus on how we can support the building trade to tackle these tough times together.
The sad reality of the prevalence of mental health issues in the construction trade is evident in any of the multiple studies conducted to determine the state of wellbeing in the industry. The trade and construction industries themselves make up 18% of all UK businesses, with more than 70% being sole traders, which can make it even more difficult to manage and improve our mental wellbeing.
This difficulty is shown in the fact that skilled tradespeople have an increased suicide risk of 35% compared to the UK national average for males, whilst for painters and plasterers this risk is over double that of the national average.
Reducing the risk for your mates
Mental health matters are often complex and difficult to discuss, being formed from a number of environmental and social factors and making it hard to manage. This, along with the impact of COVID-19 being felt far and wide across the industry, only adds to the potential stresses of working as a tradesperson and as such, it’s vitally important to take the time to support yourself and your friends or colleagues through these tough times.
If you’re looking to start a conversation with a friend about mental health, the UK men’s mental health charity, Movember, has an easy-to-remember way to check up on your mates called ALEC;
· Ask – Start by mentioning anything different you’ve noticed about their behaviour, such as missing out on a weekly catch-up – and trust your instincts, as it’s often that case that we say ‘I’m fine’ when we’re not. Don’t be afraid to ask twice!
· Listen – Hear out what they have to say without interrupting or offering advice or solutions. Being a good listener is a great way to support your friends, as simply speaking about the problem out loud can provide reassurance and comfort.
· Encourage Action – Once you’ve listened to what they have to say, encourage them to focus on small things that might help; for example, are they sleeping well enough or eating properly? Other things to suggest are that they talk to you or another trusted individual regularly about how they’re feeling – and if they’ve been feeling down for more than two weeks, suggest they book an appointment to see a doctor.
· Check In – Finally, try to set up a time or date to talk to them again – whether it’s just a short phone call or a physical meet-up. This will help to remind them that you’re interested in their wellbeing and that they have another time they know they share what they’re feeling with someone.
ALEC is a good method to keep in touch with your friends, and to help them if they’re in a tricky spot; however, if you ever feel as though someone’s life is in danger, don’t hesitate – go straight to the emergency services.
Reducing the risk for yourself
Looking after your own mental wellbeing is as important as looking after your mates. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, then remember;
· Talking is hard, but necessary – Although it can be extremely difficult to speak about issues with mental health, acknowledging that you aren’t feeling great is important to help both your understanding of what’s happening, and providing your friends with a sign that you need support.
· Your problems are important – Especially in a year as tough as 2020, we’re often presented with wide-ranging issues that may make our problems seem small. However, it’s important to remember that anything you may be experiencing is valid to you and is worthy of your time addressing.
· There is support out there – No matter how you’re feeling or how big or small you feel your problems are, there are services out there to support you. Services such as Shout, a free 24/7 Crisis text line, or The Samaritans are always available to contact, and are free to use. To see more support resources, please visit Movember’s Get Support page.
As we enter the final few months of 2020, it’s important to take every step we can to protect both our wellbeing and that of our friends.
If you’re struggling, please see the links below to access free, confidential support and resources;
 ONS, 2017