When ‘I’ becomes ‘We’, Illness becomes Wellness
Two years ago, mental health was not something I thought about nor did I have any understanding about the issues surrounding it. As hard as it is to admit words like depression and anxiety were not something I associated with family and friends, I assumed people who had mental health problems were just that, mental. I was never informed at school, work or by family what mental health involved and how it can affect those closest to us. However, two years on and I have lost two close friends to suicide before their 21st birthdays. Both of whom I perceived to be the most fun, loving and happiest of people, but I soon learnt this was not the reality and became aware about the growing issue around mental health.
It’s overwhelming to even imagine the pain and suffering a person must be experiencing to take their own life. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adults aged 15-44. Depression is the leading cause of suicide, and is experienced by a staggering 25% of the population. This shocked me, and begs the question how was I not more aware of this?
We live in a world where we share our lives on the internet for the world to see, but cannot share our feelings with friends and family. Unfortunately, males make up 79% of all suicides, highlighting the cultural and social barriers men face. When it comes to sharing feelings, or admitting a problem studies show men are far less likely to seek support than women. For example, men are 60% less likely to go to the doctors then women. Even today with social media, there is still a cultural understanding that men should be macho, however we need to realise that this expectation of masculinity is putting lives at risk.
Working in an industry that is 89% male, these statistics worry me especially as I find it hard to imagine the men on site being comfortable sharing problems about mental health issues .This needs to change. There are already organisations that offer support such as Mates in Mind and Minds Matter, however more should be done to raise the awareness of mental health in the construction industry.
Through this blog I want to bring awareness and understanding of anxiety and depression to people working in the construction industry and to try and help remove the stigma people ( especially men ) feel when they admit to experiencing mental health problems, making it more acceptable to share feeling with each other and their employer’s. Also to encourage employers to ensure they have a proper support network in place that is open and without prejudice for any employee suffering mentally. Together we can build hope so no one in our industry feels like they have no other option.
Lydia McGuinness, Trainee Site Manager – Henry Boot Construction