Mental health needs to be recognised in the same way as physical health
October 12, 2020.
Mental health needs to be recognised in the same way as physical health says RLB UK survey to mark World Mental Health Day.
The last six months have been challenging for everyone â with concerns about our health and economic wellbeing as well as many of us socially distancing from friends and family. Now more than ever we need to ensure that we look after and maintain our mental health and wellbeing and that of our colleagues.
An annual event, 10 October, marked World Mental Health Day with the theme âMental Health for Allâ prescribed by the World Federation for Mental Health. At RLB UK we work all year round with our colleagues to break down some of the myths, help change attitudes and start conversations about mental health. So we asked our team to share their views on what mental health means to them and how as an organisation we can support each other to ensure that we maintain our health and wellbeing, whether physical or mental.
Construction continues to be seen as a masculine industry with traditional masculine attributes associated with it
âAlthough the barriers are coming down, there often seems to be a feeling that you have to âman upâ, control your emotions and deal with problems on your own to âprove yourself,â commented Steve Gillingham, Head of National Commissions, a view echoed by many including Satnam Choat, Senior Bid Coordinator, âit is no secret that the construction industry has a very masculine and tough label applied to it, and there are stereotypes, expected to be tough rather than weak.â
Itâs about being there to help with no judgement
Linked to this feeling of having to suppress your emotions was the thought that more real conversations internally or externally will help to break barriers. As Ann Bentley, Global Board Director, states, âsimply acknowledging that poor mental health is a major issue for millions of people and not a secret to be hidden away is a huge step forwardâ.
âIt is key that the whole industry creates an environment where people know that they will not be judged and can openly talk about their struggles,â agrees Sarah Draper, Head of People and Culture.Â With Matt Summerhill, Managing Partner â Yorkshire & Humber continuing in the same vein that it isnât just about acknowledging your own feelings and being able to talk about them but being in such a place that you can spot and support those that might be struggling.
What can we do to break the stigma and promote positive mental health?
Although the awareness of mental wellbeing has grown massively in recent times, what, as an industry, can we do to break the stigma associated with mental health?
âOne of the big steps to break the stigma would be to normalise conversations about your mental stateâ, says Marketing Coordinator, Inese Gailane. Andrew Thomson, Environmental Manager, agrees that open cultures will allow people to recognise the factors and stress points that can lead to mental health issues. âUnderstanding stresses, being open and honest about lost time due to mental health, risks associated with it, and then looking at the value of positive mental health, should present grounds for greatly accelerated actionâ.
For many, looking after physical health helps to promote good mental health, this includes a healthy diet, stable sleep patterns and taking time to relax. Regular exercise acts as a great medicine to help us promote positive mental health â be that running, playing football, walking, gardening â any type of movement that gives you a chance to clear your headspace. âExercise has literally been my âgo toâ whenever I have felt down and I truly believe at times it has kept me going,â says Laura Kennedy-Watling, Executive PA. Ekaterina Nikolova, Client Development Executive elaborates, âpositive mental health for me is recognising how I actually feel as a result of a situation. What is the next (small) step I can make towards resolving it?â.
Work-life balance. It is important to switch-off your mind
All of the RLB team acknowledged the importance of taking time off whenever needed as being crucial to ensure a healthy work-life balance, whether that is shutting your computer down after a workday, not checking emails on your phone before going to bed or spending time with family and friends. Any big or small action that helps to have more âmeâ time and reconnecting with yourself is a step closer to a more positive mental health.
Lara Giles, Marketing Partner commented âIn recent months our working lives have changed enormously, with so many of us working from home. I recently heard the phrase âliving at workâ, which reinforced how in some cases the boundaries really can become blurred. Now more than ever itâs so important to re-establish these boundaries and routines to separate our personal and professional livesâ.
Vivianne Todhunter, Partner – Compliance & Business Improvement, still canât believe how many businesses within the construction industry do not have mental health policies to support their people. Vivianne continues, âproviding reminders of the support thatâs already in place as well as looking at other resources to help support staff are all ways in which we are breaking down the stigma associated with mental health.â
We all live with mental health daily and it knows no gender, race, age or socio-economic background. Raising awareness of keeping mental health positive should not start and stop as we mark World Mental Health Day in October or Mental Health Awareness Week in May, but should continue all year through. As Craig Wynne, Associate – Digital Services Manager, says, âitâs a continuous thing which doesnât stop because of one initiative or campaign, it has to be the ânormâ to think about and discuss it in order to break down barriers and the stigma associated with mental healthâ.
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