Looking after your mental health as a tradesperson
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Keeping your head in check matters as much as looking after your body, so find out what resources are available for tradespeople...
Mental health is a complicated area, covering our feelings, emotions, moods and thoughts - everything that’s going on inside our head.
It’s part of everyday life to feel stressed, sad, angry, calm and happy. But these feelings become mental health issues when they negatively affect how we feel and behave - and it may be more common than you think:
- Around one in four of us will experience a mental health problem of some kind. That’s a lot of us in the same boat.
- Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 and shockingly, if you work in a trade you’re three times as likely to die by suicide.
- You might have ideas of what bad mental health looks like. But it doesn’t have to be a massive breakdown. It can creep up on you. You can feel tired all the time, can’t find the motivation to go to work, or you just feel like everything is getting on top of you.
- Mental health used to be hidden away but now we understand anyone can struggle and that’s making us more open.
Signs and symptoms
Mental health problems can be tricky to unpick. It’s not always obvious what causes these issues and it’s often lots of things combined including stress, the chemical balance in our bodies and what’s going on around us (at home or in the world generally).
Whether you’re struggling with stress, anxiety and depression, or any other condition or something else, there is help out there.
Here are a few red flags to watch out for.
- Behaving in a way that’s unusual for you.
- Extreme anger, anxiety, big mood swings or closing yourself off.
- Struggling to sleep or sleeping more, eating a lot more or less.
- Not interested in your normal activities or everything feels like a huge effort.
- Feeling empty, hopeless or restless.
- Thinking about death or suicide.
Working in a trade means you might experience:
- Stress - Whether too much work, not enough work, issues with a client or money problems - lots of things can make stress you out.
- Burn out - Working away from home or working long hours can make you mentally and physically tired and stressed.
- Loneliness - Whether you’re self-employed or a specialist on-site, you can end up spending a lot of time on your own. We all need human contact to feel good.
- Macho environment - Around 95% of tradespeople are men. Things are slowly changing. But there's still this idea that men have to be strong and showing emotions is weak. And that can make getting the help you need harder.
What can I do if I need help?
Sometimes, just chatting things through with your mates or family can be enough to help release the pressure - don’t be afraid to say “Not great, actually”, when someone asks how you are.
There are also a range of things you can do to try and get on top of issues like stress - whether it’s organising your schedule with to do lists, setting aside time for admin or freeing up space for yourself.
You could also try activities like exercise and meditation to help keep yourself calm and focussed.
If your issues are persistent or affecting your everyday life, you should contact your GP to talk about what you’re going through - your doctor can help with medication if you need it, and direct you to someone to talk to and extra support.
Where can I get help?
There are lots of organisations offering support and advice. Many have helplines or email and text services.
Mates in Mind: 020 3510 5018
Mates in Mind is a registered UK charity raising awareness, addressing the stigma of poor mental health . Mates in Mind works across industries, focusing on construction, as well as related sectors including transport, logistics, manufacturing and others.
Samaritans: 116 123
Whatever you're going through, call Samaritans free any time, from any phone. Samaritans offers a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you. They won't judge you or tell you what to do, they'll listen to you.
Construction Industry Helpline: 0345 605 1956
Provided by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and supported by the Considerate Constructors Scheme, the helpline advises on a range of matters including occupational health and wellbeing, support and advice for people with stress, and home worries such as divorce, tax and financial concerns. The services can also provide emergency financial aid to the construction community in times of crisis.
Mind: 0300 123 3393 Text: 86463
The team at the leading mental health charity Mind can provide information on a range of topics including types of mental health problems, where to get help, medication and alternative treatments.
Cruse Bereavement Care: 0808 808 1677
The Cruse Bereavement Care Freephone National Helpline is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers, who offer emotional support to anyone affected by bereavement. The helpline is open Monday-Friday 9.30am-5pm (excluding bank holidays), with extended hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, when they're open until 8pm.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): 0800 58 58 58
CALM provides a helpline for men in the UK who are down or have hit a wall, who need to talk or find information and support. The helpline is open from 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.
The National Counselling Society: 01903 200666
The NCS is committed to making sure people can receive information, support and training when they need it. They hold an Accredited Register of counsellors which you can search to find a registered counsellor in the UK, near you. This allows you the choice to find a qualified counsellor you feel comfortable working with.
Step Change: 0800 138 1111
Step Change provides the UK’s most comprehensive debt advice service. The team helps people with debt problems take back control of their finances and their lives, with free debt advice.