Construction has made clear strides in raising awareness around mental health, yet research shows that within the industry there remains a strong reluctance to talk about mental health problems and suicide rates have risen.
World Mental Health Day on 10th October is an opportunity to start a conversation on mental health and it is essential that we all play our part in looking out for each other and encouraging others to speak up.
The more people who are trained in mental health awareness, the more opportunities there are for people to speak about whatever is troubling them, which could just save a life.
At Aptus we have more than thirty Mental Health First Aiders who are there to help our colleagues across all areas of the business. We asked them why they trained as Mental Health First Aiders and how it is helping them to support others. Here’s what they said.
I have an extensive background in first aid and when the opportunity came up to train in mental health first aid at Aptus, it was a further way to broaden my experience.
Through the knowledge I’ve gained I’ve been able to help a couple of colleagues who approached me after seeing me listed as one of the company’s first aiders.
In each instance, we talked through the issues they were facing and discussed some coping strategies. The training helped me to feel more confident in offering support. I also think the training helps you better able to identify body language that can indicate when there may be a problem. In my role I can see up to 50-60 colleagues a day, from drivers to operatives and others, and I like to check in and see if they are okay. It’s all about building those relationships and letting people know that you are there if they need a bit of extra support.
I’ve worked at Aptus since January 2017. Working in a male-dominated workforce I thought it would be a good idea to have a better understanding of mental health as men especially are not the best at opening up to people.
I’d say it’s given me a better understanding of how to support people and look for signs rather than be judgemental.
I’ve not really had to apply these skills directly, as far as I’m aware, but I am a good listener and often lads I’ve not seen in a while say I’ve cheered them up just by listening.
I think the more MHFAs there are in a company the better as you just never know what someone is going through or thinking, and you may help someone more than you realise just by being there.
I studied psychology at A Level and university, and it is an area that has always interested me. From speaking to other people, I’ve found that most of us will be connected to somebody who has experienced issues around mental health, whether that’s on a personal level or a family member or a friend.
Physical health is something we talk about openly but being mentally healthy is just as important, yet people are still relatively uncomfortable talking about it.
When I joined Aptus I was working on site as a jointer and thought it might be useful for the lads to have someone that they could chat to, particularly working in a male led industry, and that the Mental Health First Aid training would help.
Since being promoted to supervisor I’m office based but when I visit our stores at Leyland, I will always ask how people are – they know I’m MHFA trained so I’m a point of contact they can count on, if needed.
Some of the older generation have a different attitude to talking about issues, so I try to be tactful and approachable.
I think attitudes are changing though, since the pandemic, and people are opening up more and realising it is okay to prioritise their mental health.
The training has improved my self-awareness too and how I balance my mental health and work, for instance where before I might have thought I was just a bit fatigued, now I might consider whether I need some extra support and take steps to address any potential issues.
It’s becoming increasingly significant, especially within the workplace, to understand our mental health as it plays a huge factor in our everyday lives. I believe everyone should have an adequate understanding of the topic not only to help and better themselves, but to help others around us.
From the training, I have gained a deepened understanding of possible signs someone may be struggling with their mental health. This is incredibly beneficial to know, as not everyone is comfortable talking about their problems, so if there is the opportunity to help another in need, I would love to help in any way I can.
I also now know how to better manage myself in terms of ensuring I stay on top of my workload and seek help, when necessary, to avoid the negative impact on mental health caused by stress. I also feel more confident that I will be able to manage in the future as my responsibilities grow.
MHFAs help create an environment where colleagues can be understood, heard and most importantly, supported with any mental health struggles. Mental health issues in the workplace in general are unfortunately increasing, so it is great Aptus has a support system to help with this and have trained people look out for all Aptus members.
I wanted to do the training so I could be there for colleagues who might need someone to talk to. There are posters around the workplace with photos of all the mental health first aiders, and I think this provides reassurance if someone is struggling.
Even if you aren’t approached, the training gives you the skills to recognise the signs and symptoms, and the correct way to go about helping people and signposting them to further resources.
In all our lives a situation can change at any moment without warning, and it is how you deal with it that can determine how well you cope. Knowing that someone is there, even just to listen in a non-judgemental way, can be significant.
I’ve had third hand experience of someone affected by mental health issues who lost their life to suicide. This was after I had done the training and there were no signs, so it has made me think even more about what people might be going through, the private issues they may be dealing with, and to be more mindful of this in my everyday interactions.
Mental health issues are rising among young people due to the impact of social media and mobile phones being used by younger age groups and MHFA training will have an increasingly valuable role to play in the future.
Aptus are Company Supporters of The Lighthouse Club Construction Industry Charity, and we encourage people to access their resources which are available to construction workers and their families across the UK and Ireland. As well as a helpline app and free wellbeing training, they offer a free, confidential helpline on: 0345 605 1956. Visit www.lighthouseclub.org for more information.
IF SOMEONE IS IN CRISIS SEEK IMMEDIATE HELP – CALL 999 OR THE SAMARITANS ON 116 123