Keep your mates in mind and make time to talk
Earlier this month – as part of Time to Talk Day 2021 and in conjunction with Mates in Mind – the Smith Brothers Contracting team ‘downed tools’ for an hour, to focus on the importance of talking. Let’s get the uncomfortable truth out of the way first. Figures show that in 2019, there were 5,691 suicides per 100,000 people in England and Wales – and only a quarter of those had sought the support of mental health services in the 12 months prior to their death.
Not only that, but in the UK, men are three times more likely to take their own lives, and the suicide rate amongst the construction and related sectors is 3.7 times greater than the national average. Add to that the mental health impact of the pandemic, and we need to work together to try and bring that number down.
Time to Talk Day 2021
This year’s focus was all about ‘the power of small’. Being a supportive friend or colleague doesn’t need to come in the form of grand gestures – it could be something as simple as a quick text to say ‘hello’, a virtual morning coffee with colleagues, or a socially distanced ‘walk and talk’.
These little things can make a really big difference.
Yet, in industries such as ours, there is still a stigma around opening up, and sharing your thoughts and feelings – with this notion of a British ‘stiff upper lip’ still prevailing. Yet, the more conversations we have, the more barriers we can break down and myths we can bust!
Of course, we all know that talking about mental health – and our worries – doesn’t always come easily. But starting a conversation needn’t be awkward. It could be as simple as; “I just thought I’d give you a shout to see how things are going?”
How to know if someone is struggling – and what to do
Often, it’s hard to know if someone is having a tough time of it – but there are some tell-tale signs. Is your friend seeming increasingly agitated or tearful, perhaps not wanting to be around others, ignoring messages, or avoiding participation in things they would often enjoy?
Sometimes, individuals may appear to find it harder to cope with everyday challenges, their standards of work may slip, or there’s an inability to concentrate on their task in hand. In light of the pandemic, it’s easy to use Covid as a way of explaining away such instances – but it’s still worth an initial conversation.
So, how can you help?
Ask questions and listen to the answers – follow the 80/20 rule (80% listening 20% talking)
Consider the best time and place – it might even work better if you chat while doing something else, such as making a brew.
Don’t try and fix everything in one go – it’s hard to see people you care about having a tough time, but try to resist the urge to offer ‘quick solutions’, sometimes it’s important to simply listen.
Be patient – no matter how hard you try, sometimes people might not be ready to open up. That’s completely okay.
- Seek external support – if they’d like, you could raise the issue carefully with HR, or encourage them to speak to a mental health first aider or an external medical professional.
Remember though, it’s important to take care of your own wellbeing too. Helping someone who is struggling can be distressing for you too. So, try to recognise the signs. To find out more about Mates in Mind, visit https://www.matesinmind.org/.