Survey reveals mental health struggles of tradespeople

Thursday, 25 August, 2022

Survey reveals mental health struggles of tradespeople

Steel Blue and Beyond Blue have released the results of a survey asking workers and employers in the trades, construction, resources, manufacturing and agriculture sectors about the impact of mental health on themselves and their worksites. The inaugural ‘Steel Blue Boot the Blues’ survey found that, of the more than 900 respondents, one in three reported experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress in the 30 days before completing the survey. Additionally, 54% of all survey respondents reported experiencing feelings of hopelessness, extreme sadness (51%) and worthlessness (48%).

Steel Blue and Beyond Blue have urged workers and employers to break the stigma around mental health, with one in five survey respondents claiming they wouldn’t tell anyone if they had depression. While the majority believed depression is a real medical condition, one in 20 thought depression was a sign of personal weakness. Dr Grant Blashki, Lead Clinical Adviser for Beyond Blue, said the survey demonstrates that mental health problems are common amongst tradies, causing significant distress, though many still feel embarrassed to speak openly or seek assistance.

“That’s why initiatives like Steel Blue’s collaboration with Beyond Blue is a real game changer. It opens up the conversation and reminds tradies who are experiencing mental health problems that they’re not alone and it’s worth accessing the excellent support out there which can literally change people’s lives and help them get back on track,” Blashki said.

Steel Blue CEO Garry Johnson said the survey findings show that tradies are not immune to the mental health challenges facing many Australians, even if they are less willing to talk about it, particularly at work. Johnson added that tradies are also at risk of impacting their physical health during times of stress. “Breaking the stigma and opening up conversations is a huge part of our motivation for commissioning this research. While raising vital funds for Beyond Blue our blue boots also serve to raise awareness — they’re a natural conversation-starter at many worksites,” Johnson said.

One in five respondents said that they wouldn’t seek support for their own mental health and wellbeing, while a further one in three reported being unsure of how to protect their mental health in times of stress. When asked what supports they had accessed, the most common response was to speak to a friend or family member (40%), followed by a GP (28%), a psychologist (19%) and a work colleague or manager (16%). Half of the survey respondents said that poor mental health had an impact on their physical health. This may be due to poor self-care, so it’s important to get the basics of good mental health right by eating as healthily as possible, exercising, getting enough sleep, drinking alcohol in moderation and avoiding illicit drugs. One in four respondents reported taking extended periods of time off work as a result of a physical injury in the workplace. Over half of these respondents said that the injury had negatively impacted their mental health, demonstrating the knock-on effect physical and mental health issues can have on each other.

Blashki said that a chat with a family member, a trusted friend, a GP or a mental health practitioner, or the Beyond Blue Support Service can often be beneficial. “As a GP I see that when tradies have a physical injury, which is not uncommon, it’s often a triple whammy as they have to put up with the pain of the injury, it affects their livelihood and for many it can be a real knock to their sense of identity. That’s why I always make a point of taking seriously the mental health side of things whilst they are recovering physically,” Blashki said.

Steel Blue commissioned the research in support of its partnership with Beyond Blue. To date, it has raised more than $350,000 for Beyond Blue, donating $10 from every sale of its blue safety boots.

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