A career should make the best use of our skills, provide opportunities for development and give us a degree of job satisfaction. We expect challenges, deadlines and demanding customers and can usually cope with periods of stress. With a strong team, appreciation and fair remuneration, we ride the storm and revel in the successes.
There are, however, certain professions where high levels of stress are relentless. The demands of the job can be overwhelming and individuals feel unable to speak out and seek support. In times of desperation, suicide can feel like the only option.
Construction and Agriculture; Risks to Health
Construction and agriculture are two industries where health risks are high. Heavy lifting, equipment, exposure to chemicals, working at height are well documented in Health & Safety policies. The other major issue, which is seldom mentioned in risk assessments, is the impact on mental health.
In these male-dominated industries, the challenges of physically demanding work, isolation and uncertainty can fuel a decline in mental health. There is a culture of silence that makes it difficult to talk about pressures and fears.
Charities including Mind your Head and Mates in Mind, along with the introduction of Mental Health First Aiders are beginning to influence cultural changes. Whilst things are improving, this SHP article identifies that 90% of construction workers believe there is insufficient support for those suffering from poor mental health.
We Need to Take Care of Care Professionals
In 2017, Government data on Suicides by Occupation revealed above-average suicide cases in women who were nurses, primary school teachers and carers.
The intense demands placed on nurses is reflected in the number of those choosing to leave the profession. This ‘Workforce Burnout and Resilience in the NHS and Social Care’ report states there were 50,000 UK nursing vacancies and 112,000 social care vacancies before Covid-19 hit. In 2019/20, 149,000 social carers left their profession.
These individuals experience life or death decisions, long shifts, physically and emotionally demanding work every day. We expect health care professionals to do all they can to help us in our time of need. In return, they should be provided with sufficient financial, practical and emotional support. It is promising to see that £15million is being invested in mental health support for NHS staff.
Back to School; Back to Burnout?
As a new term commences, parents, teachers and Senior leaders are hoping to see the back of school closures, remote learning and cancelled exams. The impact of 18 months of disruption on children’s education has been widely reported. The pressure that the lockdown placed on teaching staff has remained under the radar, but this cannot be ignored.
In April 2021, the results of a YouGov Teacher Tracking survey revealed that 43% of the respondents had experienced symptoms of burnout in the last academic year. Work-related stress primary reason given for leaving the profession. The causes of this stress include long working hours, excessive administrations, dealing with behavioural issues and pastoral care. Many also feel undervalued by parents & Senior Management Teams.
Creating Hope Through Action
The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 is ‘Creating hope through action’. So, what can employers and industry representatives do to help individuals to seek support and find a way through their current situation?
All employers should value their team’s mental health and develop a culture of care. This is especially vital in industries where there is a known correlation between occupation and suicide. This can be achieved through:
- Mental Health Training, workshops and policies build awareness and understanding
- Linking with support organisations, so you can refer people to specialist services
- Downloading a free Suicide Risk Mitigation and Prevention Policy which I worked with Helen Pettifer to produce. This can be tailored to make it relevant to your organisation (We are steering a campaign to make it mandatory for every organisation to have such a policy in place. Follow me on LinkedIn for updates.)
When the individuals in your team are supported and supportive, expect a rise in productivity, talent retention and company reputation. They are three good reasons to take action and promote good mental health.
Author of the article – Ellice Whyte