Top tips for supporting tradies' mental health
The tradie culture on worksites has often shied away from showing emotions, shedding tears or discussing mental health.
Long hours, gruelling physical tasks and relentless weather conditions can wear workers down, often leaving tradies feeling drained, disconnected from loved ones and caught in a work-life imbalance. Ignoring these issues can manifest in destructive ways, including substance abuse and other unhealthy escapes.
The stakes are high when mental health goes unaddressed. Dan Pollard, a veteran tradie and founder of Fergus, offers seven tips to support tradies’ mental health.
1. Speak up
According to Mates in Construction, construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work.1 It is important not to bottle things up, and reach out when experiencing problems. This might include chatting with a mate during a break, or calling a helpline like Lifeline or Mates in Construction.
2. Keep an eye out for mates
Safety is teamwork, and so is mental wellbeing. If a workmate is struggling, their colleagues should not turn a blind eye. Asking a simple “You all right?” can be the first step in making a big difference.
3. Limit alcohol and substance use
Alcohol in moderation is key and a clear mind is better than a foggy buzz. Try swapping out a beer for a book or a movie night with friends or family. If it is proving to be a struggle to steer away from alcohol in a social setting, try a zero-alcohol option.
4. Take a break
People often think pushing through the pain is the answer, but this is a quick ticket to burnout city. Everybody needs a breather, whether it’s a weekend off or even a longer break, and stepping away gives the mind a chance to reset.
5. Get physical and eat right
After a long day, the last thing many people want to do is exercise. But physical activity releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood-lifters. Even a simple 30-minute walk after work can help clear the head.
It can be tempting to grab fast food for lunch, but a person’s body and mind need better fuel. Poor diet contributes to poor mental health, and a balanced meal with fruits, veggies and lean protein can boost both mood and energy. So, instead of reaching for that meat pie, maybe opt for a chicken salad instead. Or try packing a portion of dinner for lunch the following day.
6. Don’t ignore the doctor
Don’t ignore signs of mental strain. Regular check-ups with a doctor can help to catch mental health issues early on. General practitioners (GPs) can also refer patients on to mental health professionals. Don’t wait until hitting ‘rock bottom’ to seek help.
7. Keep learning
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to mental health, so it’s important to be aware of the facts. Organisations like Black Dog Institute have resources that can help people understand what they are going through. This can also better equip them to support a mate who might be struggling with mental health issues.
“Mental health is a real issue, and we’re the ones who can change the culture around it. Let’s embrace the stress that comes with growth, take ownership of our wellbeing and be the leaders in our industry,” Pollard said.
“I’ve lost friends and seen fellow tradies go through some really tough times. So, I take this issue to heart because, when we don’t get it right, we lose more than just our businesses. We can lose our relationships and, tragically, even our lives. That’s why it’s crucial to address mental health in our line of work.
“Remember, it’s okay to struggle, but it’s not okay to suffer in silence. A healthy team is a productive team. When you’re feeling your best, you do your best work. It’s as simple as that.”
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