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Talking heads: Support is out there for construction workers

Andy Cottom

As has been seen in CN’s Mind Matters campaign, the construction industry is starting to talk about mental health and the published statistics have certainly been shocking.

As a self-confessed ‘macho industry’, the traditional construction workplace demands that emotions are left in the locker – even anger is no longer permitted. On site, it simply isn’t ‘manly’ to talk about sorrow, anxiety or fear and dangerous to lose your temper.

When tears have to be hidden from workmates, there are feelings of shame that the cause of those tears is wrong or abnormal. Unfortunately, isolation is both a cause and effect of mental health issues, and the conversation that you should be having with your colleagues starts happening in your head.

What is talking therapy?

Psychotherapy and counselling are talking therapies. Many people talk to their family and friends about their problems, but this is not always possible.

Counsellors and psychotherapists can offer an opportunity for a construction worker to talk things through with someone. With their training in listening and experience of hearing problems, there is no judgement and complete confidentiality.

The therapist will aim to help find better ways to cope, or bring about a change in ways of thinking and behaving to improve mental and emotional wellbeing. They are not going to reduce your personal problems down to a, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Instead, they will help you answer the question, ‘What has happened to you?’

What does talking therapy deal with?

Psychotherapy deals with each person’s individual issues and explores the possible causes such as bereavement, low self-worth, loneliness, loss of hope or lack of ambition… or something entirely different.

“World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for employers, managers and workers to find solutions and support”

Working in a personalised way, unravelling why a person goes into the construction industry, why they think the way they do, how they handle problems and thinking about their attitudes and feelings, it allows the therapist to help discern what a person’s vulnerabilities are, enabling them to see what problems they may encounter in the future and – more importantly – how to cope with them.

World Mental Health Day

Today we recognise World Mental Health Day, which has the theme of mental health in the workplace. This day provides an opportunity for employers, HR managers and construction workers to not only talk about mental health but use talking to find solutions and support.

Andy Cottom is a psychotherapist at the UK Council for Psychotherapy

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