Mental health is a big topic for construction workers. In fact, they are six times more likely to die from suicide than from a workplace accident. And, new research shows that nearly a quarter of all Australians aren’t reaching out to ask others if they are ok.
This year, the team behind R U OK? Day has created the 2021 theme “Are they really OK? Ask them today”. The goal is to encourage all Australians to think about how the people around them are faring in terms of mental health.
Last July, we wrote a post about mental health and the construction worker’s mental health. We discussed why mental health issues are so common in the construction industry and how they can be improved.
Thursday, September 9 is the Australian non-profit suicide prevention organisation RUOK? Day. And, World Suicide Prevention Day is on Friday. In this blog post, we want to talk about what an “R u ok? workplace culture” looks like and how everyone can help build this culture.
How to build a strong workplace culture
An “R u ok? workplace culture” is one where we’re all connected and protected from suicide. To help build this culture, we need to build the motivation, confidence and skills of ourselves and other help givers so we can have a conversation with the persons who are struggling.
Ask yourself the following questions:
– Can you recognise the signs someone might be struggling with life?
– Are you confident you know how to have a conversation with someone who might be struggling?
– Would you like to help a workmate who told you they were struggling with life?
– When you’re at work, do you have a sense of connection and feel you belong?
– Do you feel your managers genuinely care about your wellbeing?
– Does your organisation promote a positive working environment?
– Do the people you work with encourage and support each other?
The Help System
Grief, losing a job…there are many reasons that can affect our mental health. And, the feeling of being isolated and disconnected, the believe to be a burden to the society, as well as having the means to end life are 3 factors that lead to suicide.
Talking about mental health
Talking to people about their struggles is at the bottom line of the help system. Research has found that 80% of affected people who have a conversation with someone about their issues said it made them feel more supported and cared about. And, 72% said it helped them feel better about themselves and their situation.
Barriers from asking questions are the fact that we feel there wasn’t an occasion where we felt someone needed our help. And sometimes, we feel like a conversation isn’t needed unless someone seems distressed. But, remember that it is always a good time to ask. When you ask a person if they are ok, the person feels seen and heard.
To feel good and be the best for ourselves and the people around us, we need to make self-care a priority. And, this means: it is essential to have activities and practices that support physical, emotional and mental health. Here are 6 tips from Smiling Mind:
Take the time to reflect: Self-care can be as simple as slowing down and pausing multiple times during the day. You might do this by simply taking three long, slow deep breaths.
Acknowledge your thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Investigate what’s going on.
Exercise: Regular exercise can help prevent anxiety sensations. Research shows that at least 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week can significantly make a difference.
Rest: Have a walk in a park, a forest, read, meditate, have a bath, listen to music, get massages, spend time alone, stretch…
Communicate your needs: Regularly check in with yourself, and figure out what you need (a hug, time with someone who cares about you, time alone, someone to listen without giving advice, practical support)
Get creative: try new recipes, new sports or new hobbies, listen to new music, read books, take a different route, try colouring / drawing / photography, appreciate the creativity of others.
Primary mental health care services
Then, there are the primary mental health care services.
Providing mental health services in primary health care involves diagnosing and treating people with mental disorders;
putting in place strategies to prevent mental disorders and
ensuring that primary health care workers are able to apply key psychosocial and behavioural science skills,
for example, interviewing, counselling and interpersonal skills, in their day to day work in order to improve overall health outcomes in primary healthcare.
And, ultimately, there are the psychiatric services in hospitals. Most people living with mental illness will never need to go to hospital for treatment. But if you do have to go, hospital can be the best place for you to rest, feel safe and receive the help you need.
Investing Time In People Around Us
It is important to invest more time in people around us. We might all know someone who’s struggling. Any day is a good day to ask these important questions.
To do so and increase people sense of belonging, simply:
– Ask if the person is ok
– Encourage action
– Check in
Celebrate small wins along the way
At ATM we regularly discuss, are encouraged to think about specific questions about ourselves and try to celebrate every small win.
Everyday is an R u ok Day
Let’s do our best to make ‘are you ok’ part of everyday life. So that our relatives know we care. In fact, a conversation could change a life.
And, mental health issues can come from various reasons: experiencing a loss, having stress at work, having anxiety to look for work, transitioning to retirement… So, take a moment to check on the people around you. For instance, take them for a coffee, lunch, walk, run, or call them. It does not have to be super formal. For example, have a chat while you’re cooking or driving. And, walk the journey with them, don’t lead them. Also, remember to ask again, check in again a bit later.
So, if you’re finding things tough, we encourage you to talk with someone you trust about how you’re feeling. And, remember, if you need immediate support, Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14.
A directory of national support and services can be found at https://www.ruok.org.au/findhelp. For local services we recommend chatting to your doctor or a trusted health professional.
Read the Guide to supporting R U OK? Day to learn more about how to get involved.
Want more? Read also our blog post: Construction worker’s mental health.