Supporting workers for better mental health

During October we are putting a spotlight on the wellbeing of staff to mark National Mental Health Month.

One organisation working at the coalface to improve the lives of workers is HALT – Hope Assistance Local Tradies – which was started in the central Victorian town of Castlemaine in response to the death of a local tradesperson back in 2013.

The trades-focused group has developed a national profile over recent years, helping to raise awareness of the challenges facing workers and raising money for resources.

Founder Jeremy Forbes says National Mental Health Month is an opportunity to highlight the ways people can improve their wellbeing.

“I see and hear people talking more about reducing the stigma and shame around mental health, and being heard when they open up with their struggles,” he says.

“More workplaces are being proactive with building policies and procedures around mental health and suicide prevention, and acknowledging that it is real, present and as important as physical health.”

He says it’s also important for people to know mental health and suicide prevention aren’t “9-5 issues”.

“We need to continue to help tradies not feel shame, know the risk factors that can lead to poor mental health and suicide,” he says.

“(We teach people) how to be a good listener, have the tough conversations, and know what support services are available and how to access them.

“Coming in and out of lockdown has created uncertainty, with regards to easing of restrictions and what the tradies can and can’t do.

“Telehealth has been a positive to come out of COVID, as tradies previously may have been unsure about speaking face-to-face with a psychologist.

“But they can now speak over a computer screen while in the safety of their own home.

“Some people prefer face-to-face (treatment), but it’s great to have options.”

HALT’s mental health tips for workers

  • It’s OK to struggle with issues in life – own them and acknowledge that you may be not coping with aspects of life, and please don’t feel any shame in reaching out and asking for help.
  • Reach out to friends, work colleagues, family, manager, GP, counsellor or Lifeline – remember you’re not alone.
  • There are multiple layers of help out there, and there are millions of other people struggling and getting through.​​​​​​​
  • Listen to your friends, family and work colleagues – be engaged, hear what they are saying and don’t judge.​​​​​​​
  • Have the tough conversation somewhere quiet and where you all feel safe and comfortable.​​​​​​​
  • Some of the risk factors and struggles to listen out for in conversations can involve finance, family, money, relationships, gambling, bullying, alcohol and drugs and grief.
  • If you are concerned and worried for someone, don’t be afraid to ask ‘Are you thinking of suicide?’ as this normalises the word, reduces the stigma and can give permission to the person that they can trust you and you want to help them.
  • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Take care and do something good for yourself, not for other people in your life, but something special that just you enjoy, a hobby, passion or interest – find the time to enjoy and be grateful for the lovely things you have in your life.
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