For some years now, the third Monday in January has been known as ‘Blue Monday’. It’s supposedly the most depressing day of the year, calculated on factors like the weather, debt, salaries, and the time passed since Christmas. Not very uplifting is it.
Interestingly, the term finds its origins from a marketing stunt in the early 2000s, designed for holiday adverts to have maximum impact. So, should we acknowledge Blue Monday?
It may have started as a marketing campaign, but that doesn’t mean that mental health isn’t important. It’s worth us all keeping an eye on friends, family and ourselves, as problems can spike in the first month of the year. Naturally, it’s all teamed with coming down from the emotional high of the festive season and get back to the reality. After all, the winter blues – or seasonal affective disorder – are very real, and there can be many challenges in your working life.
And if you’re working in an industry like construction, mental health issues are a major factor that often get looked over, which many organisations are striving to change. So, we’re here to cut through the noise and offer some helpful advice about how to help yourself and those you work with this winter.
Mental health – what’s the big deal?
In 2022-23, stress, anxiety, and depression accounted for almost half (49%) of work-related ill-health. Construction, and similar trades, have been identified as one of the most affected. Shockingly, the industry has some of the worst suicide rates in the UK, with male construction workers being 2.7 times more likely to take their own life than the average.
We understand that construction work has a variety of pressures from tight contracts to long hours, time away from loved ones and managing budgets, not to mention the added stresses caused by the pandemic and the rising costs of supplies. What’s more, it’s a predominantly male profession, and typically, men are less likely to feel comfortable discussing their feelings and emotions. It’s tough work to dispel a decades-long attitude of ‘suffering in silence’.
How to support a colleague with mental health concerns?
Recognising the signs of mental health issues in a friend or colleague can be difficult, especially as they may not even be aware of a problem themselves. But, if they don’t seem like their usual self, both in terms of their personality, but also their approach to work, it can be a good idea to check in and see how they are. After all, you can always do so casually just to assess if it’s just a bad day, or something more serious. And you’ll be part of the positive movement to normalise conversations about mental health in the workplace.
If you are concerned about someone, find a place and time to talk to them away from distractions, and somewhere they’ll feel comfortable. Ask how you can help, and remember to be patient, respectful, and open-minded. You may not get an answer straight away, but it’s important to reassure someone that you are there to help if they need it.
And remember, your role as a colleague and friend is to listen and signpost where they can find expert support. You’re not a counsellor or a mental health professional, so if you notice that the issue is more serious than just a bad couple of days, speak to your manager or seek confidential support through a helpline (we’ve compiled a useful list at the end of this page).
What should employers do to help mental health in the workplace?
If you run a business, you’re not only aware of your mental health, but you have a duty of care for your employees. Having a mental health strategy, and making sure your team are all aware of the support available will help everyone become more comfortable with discussing their mental health in the workplace in an appropriate way.
You can lead by example and encourage your team to ask how others are feeling. If an employee approaches you with concerns, either about themselves or a colleague, discuss any issues with sensitivity, the right levels of privacy and confidentiality.
Just as we need training and experience to learn to do our jobs, the same can be said for dealing with mental wellbeing. That’s why there are several organisations focused specifically on construction and mental health.
Green Hat Consulting has developed a mental health toolkit, helping employers create the right frameworks for their business. Similarly, Mates In Mind has a range of training and resources for employers and employees, as does the Chartered Institute of Building.
Useful helplines where you can find support:
There are many ways to get mental health support and guidance, especially if you’re working in construction or similar trades. Here’s a handy list of organisations with helplines, where you can access free, confidential mental health support 24/7.
- Mates in Mind: helps employers find support and guidance on mental health and wellbeing, and how they can address this within their business.
- MIND: an organisation committed to ensuring that no one has to face a mental health problem alone. They provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
- Samaritans: a charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide. Call 116 123 any time free of charge, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Lighthouse Club: provides emergency financial assistance, welfare and wellbeing advice, and emotional and legal support to the construction industry workforce and their families in times of hardship and stress. Ring 0345 609 1956, text HARDHAT to 85258 or download the app.
- National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK: a helpline offering a supportive listening service to anyone with thoughts of suicide. Open 24/7, ring 0800 689 5652.
- SHOUT: a free 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone struggling to cope. Text SHOUT to 85258 for free from all major mobile networks in the UK.
- CALM: dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Call 0800 58 58 58 between 5pm and midnight, 365 days a year, or use the webchat.
- PAPYRUS: committed to preventing suicide among young people under 35, providing a confidential support and advice helpline and offering training sessions. Available 9am – midnight every day, ring 0800 068 4141 or text 07860 039 967 or visit the site for more options.
- SANE: a leading UK mental health charity improving quality of life for anyone affected by mental illness. Leave a message with your first name and contact number on 07984 967 708 to request a call back.
And don’t forget, our commercial insurance team of experts are here to help you. As experienced brokers, we understand you and your business. We’re here to help you find tailored policies that suit your trade and can offer the support you need to get great value, making sure you’re correctly covered to prevent any unnessecary stress. Find out more about how we can help by calling your local business branch.
Sources: Sky News, CIOB, Green Hat Consulting, The Lighthouse Club, Builders Talk Group