I first became aware of ‘Local Heroes’ online when my mum’s boiler broke. She had no idea who to call (other than Dad, who was unfortunately out of the country at the time). So, it was a service that saved both the day and the central heating!
I’ve always been interested in how mental health renders in industries that are traditionally associated with very ‘macho’ and ‘laddish’ stereotypes. For instance, due to decades of toxic masculinity and misrepresentation in the media, it’d be fair to argue that when we think ‘mental health’, tradespeople are not the first group that comes to mind. Besides, surely the bloke who can lift a radiator or fit a boiler has better things to do than struggle with anxiety? He doesn’t have time to be depressed or feel alone. Right? This is not only inaccurate but also a dangerous assumption.
So, I was delighted to hear that Local Heroes, in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, had commissioned a survey to find out how tradespeople are faring when it comes to their mental health.
The results were widespread and detailed. As far as tradespeople mental health is concerned, a shocking 70% of workers were experiencing issues and 60% believed that the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively affected their mental wellbeing.
Stress came through as the biggest issue (44%), followed by a general sense of ‘feeling low’ (37%), with anxiety (35%) and depression (28%) following close behind.
It’s worth highlighting that as of September 2019, suicide is still the biggest killer of men under the age of forty-five. Which is a sobering thought in itself.
Almost half the people surveyed (45%) didn’t feel there was enough awareness in their industry, and what struck me as interesting was the correlation between age and those who had sought some form of support. 69% of over 55s admitted they have NOT looked for any help in the last twelve months, versus 38% of 18 to 34-year-olds.
Although disappointing, this isn’t a surprising result. Mental health education, although better than it was five years ago, is still limited in its reach. For example, mental illness exists on a spectrum and varies in severity, which many people don’t understand. Campaigner and LBC radio host Natasha Devon, MBE, tells me: “I think in the population more generally the distinction between mental wellness and mental illness needs to be understood better.”
But how can we do that? By speaking up, of course.
Talking about a mental health condition is an incredibly vulnerable experience, and even with all my years’ experience writing about anxiety, I too can still find it difficult.
Being honest opens us up to uncertainty. After all, we don’t know how people will react. What if they judge us? Or think we’re weak/incapable of doing our job? Will it taint us long-term? These are all reasonable concerns. Although, if you give people a chance, they might just surprise you.
Top tips for seeking support
- Start small. Confide in a spouse, loved one, or close friend. Although, make sure that the timing is right (e.g. not when they’re about to leave the house, watching a film, etc.), as you deserve their full attention. You can even start by telling a Samaritans volunteer over the phone.
- Talk to your GP. Make notes in advance to keep yourself on track. E.g. List not only your physical symptoms, such as fatigue but also your mental/emotional ones. These may include excessive worrying or feeling low. Remember, the brain deserves the same medical care as the body.
- Look for avenues of support and relevant information available to you. Mental Health UK have developed Mental Health Truths and Clic, which provides information on where to seek mental health support, including expert advice, tips, case studies, and an online forum.
Even heroes need a little help from time to time. So be proactive about your mental wellbeing and most of all, be kind.
For more information and useful contact numbers check out the Mental Health UK website.
This post was written in conjunction with Local Heroes, but I’ve loved working with them and my thoughts are 100% my own.