Working on a construction site can be physically dangerous, but research shows it’s also likely to affect mental health.
Australia’s tradies suffer disproportionately high rates of mental illness and suicide. Lower-skilled trade workers such as labourers have a suicide rate of 18 per 100,000, while higher-skilled trade workers have a rate of 13 per 100,000.*
Both are above the Australian wide suicide rate of 12.1 deaths per 100,000.**
Researchers say tradies are vulnerable because they are more likely to work longer hours and suffer workplace injuries.
There’s also a longstanding macho culture where workers in the industry, predominantly men, are expected to tough out these conditions as well as the often unstable nature of their work.
COVID-19 and the restrictions it has placed on tradespeople across the country has only made matters worse.
The toll on mental wellbeing is yet to be tallied, but many tradies have been put out of work during site shutdowns and restrictions.
This fragile time calls for extra vigilance around the workplace and also at home. Here, we look at five ways to help tradies on and off the worksite.
1. Look out for a mate
Tradies need to look out for each other. If your workmate seems stressed, irritable or less able to concentrate, it’s a good time to start a conversation. It could make a huge difference.
2. Start talking
It can be hard to open a conversation about emotions and thoughts, but it could be just the outlet your workmate needs to pull them out of their darkest hour.
The discussion may be slow to start with, but stick with it and let them know you’re there when they need to talk.
It’s just as important to monitor your own mental health and this means being aware of the signs you’re not coping.
This is when self-care needs to swing into action. Self-care makes you happy and takes your mind off work. It’s unique for everyone, but it could include exercise, pursuing hobbies or simply spending time with family.
4. Ask for help
There is a stigma around speaking with health professionals. Some people see it as a sign of weakness when in fact, it is one of the strongest things you can do.
Health professionals lend an independent ear to your concerns and they are trained to support you in a sensitive and confidential way.
5. Enrol in a mental health and wellbeing workshop
Learning how to build skills that focus on good mental health maintenance can set you up to cope with some of life’s most challenging times.
St John Ambulance Victoria runs a 3.5 hour workshop providing practical skills and strategies to support better mental health in your own life.
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