Given that the backbone of our sector largely consists of sole traders and small firms, providing support and advice across the entire installer community can be exceptionally tricky. We’ve spoken at length in recent months about the need for unity and representation – and this need continues – but what about areas that aren’t considered core to everyday work?
The issue of mental health, for instance, can prove extremely difficult to broach. Our industry is still male-dominated so the propensity to adopt a “man up” approach to mental health may well pervade. There is an undoubted stigma that remains attached to admitting to a personal “weakness” in walks of life that are viewed as macho – and the heating and plumbing arena fits that bill. Factor in the self-employed status of a vast number of installers (with the associated financial implications of taking time off work) and there is a very real risk that many will take the option to plough on.
Underlying all of this is perhaps a fundamental misinterpretation of what constitutes a mental health issue. While you may be inclined to write off the symptoms of depression, for example, as simply having a bad day/week/month/year, recognising that the situation needs addressing is an essential first step. By no means does it have to be a public declaration, but there’s a lot more to it than merely deciding to “pull yourself together”. And ultimately, however much you might imagine that you’ll be judged harshly for recognising that you may need help or support, you’ll almost certainly find that your friends and colleagues are a far more sensitive and sympathetic bunch than you gave them credit for.
Making progress in this area, with regard to greater understanding of the impact and the avenues of treatment at least, is likely to come from high profile examples. The world of football, for one, has shone a spotlight on a number of cases over the years. It’s all too easy to write off professional athletes as pampered and cosseted, but this is a clear demonstration that wealth and privilege by no means preclude mental health issues. This is something that has the potential to affect us all, and the sooner we can overcome the stigma, the sooner we’ll begin to make headway.
The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and the Considerate Constructors Scheme recently launched an initiative to help support the mental health agenda in the construction industry. For more information, visit www.constructionindustryhelpline.com. It’s also well worth taking a look at www.mentalhealth.org.uk