Improving Wellbeing and Mental Health
This episode of our mental health podcast series is one that is particularly relevant to all of us, regardless of where we work or what we do. Dr Rachael Cooper and Cathy O’Hara have many years of experience in working with people with mental health issues, and they bring their vast knowledge to this broadcast.
Dr Cooper has been a GP in Newcastle for 22 years and a significant amount of her work involves dealing with patients with mental health challenges. Cathy started her career in HR for a construction firm and has worked for HIES for many years.
Identifying mental health problems
When patients approach Dr Cooper with mental health issues, they often use the word ‘stress’, where in reality what people are suffering from is anxiety or depression. Symptoms may include mild worrying to full-blown panic attacks, catastrophising that something bad will happen, an inability to get out of bed, lack of motivation, drinking too much and/or taking drugs, feeling restless and unsatisfied, and not sleeping properly. Dr Cooper also speaks about a little-known condition called anhedonia, which is the inability to enjoy yourself or find pleasure in anything. This is a recognised symptom of mental health conditions like depression and can manifest in feeling numb, flat, and not being interested in anything. All these symptoms indicate that help is needed, and it is important to acknowledge that suffering is not a weakness, but a form of illness that needs to be treated.
Building resilience and self-care
Resilience is the ability to cope with situations and challenges, and the better our physical and mental fitness, the better our resilience and the more we get out of life.
Looking after physical health is as important as taking care of our mental health and the connection between mind and body should not be underestimated. Exercise and being outdoors are both shown to have a positive impact on mood. Eating the right food, having hobbies, surrounding ourselves with positive people and finding support systems all go hand in hand in helping to boost our mental health. Developing a growth mindset and continuing to learn and develop are all positive habits to embrace.
To help with self-care, social media breaks, practising gratitude, listening to inspirational podcasts, and using Apps are all tools that provide support. We are more likely now to be working in isolation so finding time to socialise with positive friends is important. Equally, bad habits need to broken: drinking, drugs and bad eating habits and behaviours all contribute to a negative state of mind.
Organisations that can help
Cathy and Dr Cooper highlight three organisations which have expertise in the area of mental health treatment, whether that is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and talking therapies for anxiety or counselling. A GP can also provide access to services and may prescribe medication in more serious cases.
Lighthouse provides support exclusively for workers in the construction industry. Mates in Mind is a charity which raises awareness and aims to destigmatise the conversation around mental health, and Band of Builders specifically helps tradespeople in need. often it is men who find it most difficult to talk if they are struggling with their mental health. As the construction industry is a predominantly male industry, this is a vital organisation.
Mates in Mind has a free, confidential 24/7 hotline called Be A Mate, which is available to anyone in our industry. Just text HARDHAT free on 85258 and a trained volunteer will be available to help, whatever the issue. This is not just open to HIES members, but to anyone in the industry who feels they would benefit from expert, confidential support.
This podcast emphasises the fact that there is no reason to suffer in silence and that help is available. If you need support, it is not sign of weakness and you are not alone.
The HIES/NHIC mental health podcasts are running into October and are available here: