Resilience in the face of mental health by Marion Whitty
Mental health is a difficult topic of discussion for families, friends or colleagues that have been either directly or indirectly affected by the issue. If you speak to a mother or father whose child was the victim of suicide, their perceptions of mental health will be very different now from before their loss. At this point, it is too late. The damage has been done and poor mental health’s lasting mark will be imprinted forever on those people.
My personal interest in mental health began when I worked at a previous organisation several years ago and we lost three people to suicide within a short period of time. These were everyday people in good health who had families and were financially secure. I found it very difficult to comprehend why they would decide to end their lives in such a way, and it showed me that we never really know what is going on in people’s lives unless we make a conscious effort to ask. Giving people the space and opportunity to open up is one way in which we can prevent matters from escalating.
Mental ill-health-related deaths continue to grip people in this country. According to the World Health Organisation, one person every 40 seconds dies of suicide and it is the second leading cause of death amongst young people globally. In the UK, 6,507 deaths were attributed to suicide in 2018 – a figure we should not tolerate as being ‘normal’. There is plenty of work that can be done to prevent this and ensure that everyone lives a happy and fulfilled life.
We have been championing Mental Health Awareness Week at Countryside to encourage colleagues to understand the complexities behind the issue and share their experiences with us, either personally or professionally. It is vital to the long-term fight against mental ill-health that we understand the nuances between different peoples’ experiences. The condition does not discriminate, and no one is immune to its effects. Sadly, the construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicide with two people taking their lives every day on average. We have a responsibility to reduce that rate within the industry.
At Countryside, we have trained over 50 Mental Health First Aiders in the past year with our long-term goal to have at least one based on every site and in every office, to support the business’ 2,000 employees. We are making a big push to ensure that colleagues have every opportunity to voice their worries or problems in a safe space and with a trusted, fully trained staff member. It isn’t easy implementing a process to encourage people to expose themselves, but we are making every effort to ensure people feel supported in work to identify where additional help is required. Our internal Mental Health First Aider Forum provides support for all first aiders and enables us to identify trends and themes from the support we give. We can effectively utilise these insights to enhance how we help address future concerns from our people. Our work is not just about reacting to mental health issues, if there is an opportunity to prevent issues occurring, that is just as important.
Our contribution to mental health goes beyond this awareness week, we are actively implementing strategies and initiatives to constantly support our people at all times. Our commitment to the wellbeing of our staff and those in the industry is unwavering. Much like the issue itself, our work goes on behind closed doors and we are striving to uproot it from the inside out, one day at a time.