Updated: Sep 16
The following article is a collaborative piece between LinkedIn colleagues Dave Dean and Leslee Montgomery.
Health and Safety in the construction and forestry sector was basic in the seventies. PPE that was available was simple but it helped prevent personal injury. The seventies were however the dawn of “No Guts No Glory”. The eighties brought foreclosures, unemployment, and sky-high interest rates. Safety improvements were badly needed in construction and forestry. It was a struggle with untrained people taking on dangerous tasks. A lot of people died and a lot of people got hurt.
The eighties were stressful, it was the dawn of “You Can Sleep When Your Dead” Looking at industry standards today, it has made life-saving improvements in safety to include training, safety by design, diagnosing industrial illness, and mental health issues. It has significantly reduced the incidence of injury and death in construction and forestry. Mental health is now recognized in the industry. There is however a big problem with loss of life in the trades. It is called suicide in the construction and forestry industry. The stats for suicide in construction and forestry is truly disturbing. It is a global problem and its impact on families has been here for decades.
The very fact that construction and forestry workers are proud, rough and tough, and ready for any challenge may well be their own demise when asking for mental health help. I asked a LinkedIn connection, Leslee Montgomery, a compassionate Mental Wellness Architect, and a Construction Mental Health advocate her thoughts to the following questions. Leslee has graciously given her time to do so with language that we can understand. Let’s help eliminate the personal fear of asking for mental health and thus reduce the loss of life through self-harm. Please share her post and feel free to comment. Collectively we will help someone, somewhere.
Know If You Are Having a Mental Health Issue?
We all have issues that create havoc on our mental health. Being able to recognize when the issues are impacting our seasonal mental health allows us the opportunity to lessen the impact or avoid the negative outcomes. Some early signs to pay attention to:
Increased headaches generally start in the front of the eyes and eventually extend to the upper back, shoulders, and neck.
Decreased patience when dealing with simple tasks
The significant change in eating habits
Increased consumption of nicotine products
Increased consumption of alcohol
These are signals we are out of balance and we need to pause and address the underlying issue.
Can Your Mental Health Affect Safety At Work?
Absolutely! Being distracted by something happening inside your mind is a dangerous place to be at any workplace. Our ability to make decisions becomes affected potentially putting us in areas we shouldn’t be like the line of fire, or not doing thorough inspections on lifesaving equipment. Co-workers can become distracted by the change in behavior (s).
How To Know If Co-worker is Suffering From Mental Health Issues?
When we notice something in their behavior is off. Possibly we notice they seem to be quick to react emotionally maybe they become angry or defensive over something they normally don’t. They’ve stopped having coffee with everyone and choose to sit in their vehicle.
In these cases, we should check in with them. Pull them to the side and let them know you’ve noticed they seem to be distracted and ask if there's anything they need to talk about. This approach shows the person asking is sincere and noticed the co-worker has changed. Asking this way, we steer away from “is everything okay”, because okay is just a way to deflect.
How Do You Know When to Ask For Help?
Always a touchy subject; far too many people go down an internal path of weakness when it comes to asking for help. We feel we should be able to handle everything that is being thrown at us: work, finances, relationships, children, pets, social activities. The reality is there are times when these things take center stage. Asking for help because your marriage is on the rocks, you are feeling unusually sad, and your pet has just passed away may seem like the wrong time to help but you couldn't be more wrong. The sooner you can get access to help the sooner you can start to feel better.
Ask Your Supervisor For a Time-out?
Using a mental health day is something we need to normalize. Understanding our own emotions around this subject has a lot to do with how challenging this can be. Finding the right time can be challenging supervisors are always busy. Be sincere, make eye contact, take a deep breath down into your belly to help calm yourself and tell them you need sometime off. The supervisor is responsible for their own reaction, not you. Their frustration maybe directed at you but 9 times out of 10 it is the situation.
What are you going to say?
Practice helps in these cases. It may sound funny but if you can look yourself in the mirror and ask for time off to help yourself you can ask anyone.
“I need some time off to manage some things at home.”
“I’m not feeling like myself lately and I could use some time off.”
"I need to take a mental health day."
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide line at 833 456 4566.
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As mental health architect, Leslee's company Humanolgy Partners lead construction company’s through the uncomfortableness of mental health by creating supportive strategies leading to lower turnover and increased profits.