Supporting mental health at Christmas

Mental health issues are a growing concern in the construction industry – and the festive period can often make stress, depression and suicidal feelings even worse. However, help is at hand if you need it

Mental health issues are already one of the biggest challenges to the electrical sector, but at Christmas, existing issues can suddenly seem magnified.

The festive period is extremely difficult for those suffering with stress, depression and other symptoms of serious mental strain. Christmas brings with it the expectation of expensive gifts and overindulgence, which affects people already feeling the impact of late and unfair payments more than ever.

The yuletide season is also a time for overindulgence and alcohol – which can add an unbearable temptation to those who are recovering from, or struggling with, addiction.

Luckily, help is at hand thanks to the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC), which works hard to support those struggling over the holiday season, including a special helpline that stays open throughout the Christmas period.

Tessa Ogle, CEO and MD of the EIC, said: “The festive season, although a happy time for so many of us, can be a really difficult period for many of our electrical industry colleagues.

“We know that mental illness knows no boundaries and does not discriminate. We also know that suicide rates in the electrical industry are already 2.7 times higher than the national average.

“That’s why we offer a variety of ways to help people who may feel that they have nowhere to turn and can’t cope with the extra pressures that Christmas often brings.

“We will help anyone who reaches out to us for assistance – whatever their circumstances.”

The EIC says a third of the cases it deals with involve mental health issues and out of all the cases it supports, 76% of people are diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety.

Tessa added: “At Christmas time, seeing everyone in an endless good mood and enjoying sentiments of joy and laughter all around can aggravate feelings of intense sadness, loneliness and hopelessness.

“Although the EIC tries to help everyone who contacts the helpline, the sad thing is sometimes we’re too late and the individual may already have reached their crisis point.”

One such crisis point came in 2018, when the EIC helped the family of a young electrician who took his own life after a long struggle with mental illness.

Matthew, who was 33, left behind a wife and two young children. He had never contacted the EIC before, but after his death, his employer rang the charity on his wife’s behalf and they were able to offer invaluable help.

Matthew was not alone in his struggle – in 2018 the charity dealt with 37 suicides.

Some 2,157 people also contacted the EIC at crisis point, with 443 people reporting attempts to take their own life. Tess added: “The EIC continues to support those within our industry who are affected by mental health issues and it continues to strive for a more open and positive culture within our sector surrounding mental health.

“We champion positive mental health within the workplace, through both our mental health awareness training and mental health first aider training.

“We also rely on the generosity of our fund-raisers who help us continue our vital work through the festive season and beyond.” To find out more about how the EIC can help, call 020 3696 1710 or go to www.electricalcharity.org

Sources: Payment and Mental Health in Construction Survey, ECA, BESA and Prompt Payment Directory, 12 September-10 October 2019; Mind; Centre for Mental Health, 2017.

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