Mental health: How can we do better as an industry?

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Even though most of us will struggle with mental health issues at some point in our lives, when it comes to getting the help we need, it can be difficult to know where to start. For thousands of people, this disparity is the difference between life and death, with suicide rates among men in particular the highest they’ve ever been. Here, the Electrical Industries Charity give us some invaluable tips on starting the conversation.

Let’s face it, the start of the year is always a little depressing, the weather is miserable, Christmas is over, and normality has almost resumed, generally leaving in its wake heavier bodies and lighter wallets. January 20 has even been dubbed ‘Blue Monday’ making it officially the most depressing day of the year.

We all have mental health that, just like our physical health, needs taking care of. Unfortunately, in this country, mental health issues, particularly those in relation to suicide, are still strongly (and wrongly) shrouded in secrecy and shame. This stigma is an enormous issue and one of the main reasons suicide rates, particularly among men, continue to rise.

Why is suicide so common in the UK? 
  • Many experts believe a number of things determine how vulnerable a person is to suicidal thinking and behaviour. These include: 
  • Life history: For example, having a traumatic experience during childhood, a history of sexual or physical abuse, or a history of parental neglect. 
  • Mental health: For example, developing a serious mental health condition, such as schizophrenia. 
  • Lifestyle: For example, misusing drugs or alcohol. 
  • Employment: Such as poor job security, low levels of job satisfaction or being unemployed. 
  • Relationships: Being socially isolated, being a victim of bullying or having few close relationships. 
  • Genetics and family history. 
The facts
  • Suicide is the greatest cause of death amongst young men (15–44) in the UK and of many young women. 
  • Every four minutes someone in the UK tries to kill themselves and every hour and a half someone succeeds.
  • 1,419 people working in skilled construction building trades took their own lives between 2011 and 2015.
  • 1,409 were men and just 10 were women.
  • The statistics also show that the risk of suicide for those working in building and construction trades was 1.6 times higher than the national average.
How can we do better?
  • Talk about mental health awareness, being more open and discussing challenges so that we take away the stigma.
  • Acknowledge as an industry that there is an issue and start to measure it as we do with other health and safety statistics.
  • Engage in dialogue with your colleagues by asking a simple question, such as ‘are you okay?’ – it can make all the difference.
  • Try not to judge. You might feel shocked, upset or frightened, but it’s important not to blame the person for how they are feeling. They may have taken a big step by telling you.
  • Don’t skirt around the topic. There is still a taboo around talking about suicide, which can make it even harder for people experiencing these feelings to open up and feel understood. Direct questions about suicide, such as ‘are you having suicidal thoughts?’ or ‘have you felt like you want to end your life?’, can help someone talk about how they are feeling.
Access assistance 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and you’re unsure what to do, the Electrical Industries Charity have some brilliant resources:

  • Call 080 652 1618 or email support@electricalcharity.org  – Available 7 days a week offering free and independent assistance for virtually any problem or issue you may encounter. EIC’s trained advisors assist everyone with respect and empathy.
  • Through Samaritans: Confidential emotional support is available 24/7 to anyone experiencing despair, distress or suicidal feelings by calling 08457 090090.
  • The EIC also offers telephone counselling, careers advice and assistance, as well as financial assistance. For more information, please visit www.electricalcharity.org.