Tuesday March 31, 2020

The dangers of the 'man up' culture for mental health

While the construction industry has undergone much progress in the last few years in terms of safety, salaries, and inclusiveness, there is still much room for improvement when it comes to mental health, says Carmen Bryce

13th November, 2018
Carmen Bryce of MyMind Centre for Mental Wellbeing

What's your name?

Carmen Bryce

What position do you hold?

Senior Communications Specialist at MyMind Centre for Mental Wellbeing

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

MyMind is a mental health charity in significant growth mode and the country’s largest blended and multilingual provider of mental health support, so no one day is the same for me. My role involves managing communications and marketing for a team of 90 mental health professionals from all over the world.

On a day-to-day basis, this can involve researching priority areas and groups in Ireland to inform development strategies for future growth, identifying funding pools to support this growth, working with the clinical team to integrate new mental health professionals and cultivate best practice, and driving advocacy campaigns to raise awareness for mental health in Ireland.

What is your professional background?

I am a journalist and communications specialist.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

I love getting outside in nature. I try to swim in the sea all year round, but the winter months are definitely more challenging! My idea of heaven is a good plate of food and I’m a bit of a cheeseaholic. I practice yoga a few times a week. I try to make time for some self-care. I have to practice what I preach!

Tell us something very few people know about you

I am a qualified swimming teacher. I also know all the words to Jump Around by House of Pain!

You are speaking at the 2018 CIF Health & Safety Summit. What are you speaking about?

Recent studies have shown that mental health issues are emerging as the number one workplace illness and reason for absenteeism, and unfortunately the frequency of mental health issues is increasing within the construction industry. Men in particular are less likely to talk, or ask for help when they’re struggling, which has huge impacts for their overall health. I’ll be speaking about the importance of employers approaching the mental health of their workforce with the same respect and due care as their physical health.

I’ll be looking at the dangers of the ‘man up’ culture for mental health, and how this can easily permeate through a male-dominated working environment. I hope to touch on the steps employers can take to create an open and acceptable culture around mental health in the workplace, and encourage discussion of mental health issues within their industry in order to break down the stigmas.

What challenges do you see for health and safety in the construction sector?

The workplace can be a boiling pot for mental health issues. The construction sector is no exception to this and is, in fact, more at risk of poor mental health. 80 per cent of suicides in Ireland are by men, and the construction sector is 96 per cent male. This makes mental health in this industry a priority that cannot and should not be ignored. There is a higher prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse in this industry.

This, along with financial pressures, a competitive work environment, physically taxing labour, and at times, periods of separation from the family, are all factors that can contribute in a very real way to poor mental health. If we let this sit in a culture of silence and stigma, mental health issues are likely to worsen and in some cases become critical.

Where would you like to see health and safety in the industry in 10 years time?

Government initiatives to raise awareness of mental health issues will only go so far. We need to work together for better mental health for everyone, and this involves employers taking formal and consistent action to improve mental health in the workplace. If we want to attract a new generation to the construction industry, it has to keep up with other industries in terms of health standards.

While the construction industry has undergone much progress in the last few years in terms of safety, salaries, and inclusiveness, there is still much room for improvement when it comes to mental health. It was encouraging to see that this year the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) held a ‘Mind Your Head’ campaign as part of its safety week, to raise awareness of mental health. This is a good start. In a practical sense, allocating mental health advocates on the ground to help support mental health issues would go a long way.

Another part of this could be providing training for managers to spot the signs of mental health issues before they escalate, and wellbeing workshops every year to teach tools for mental resilience and coping with stress. Tackling these issues now is a much more resourceful and sustainable way to make the industry a safer place to work.

Carmen Bryce will be speaking at the Construction Industry Federation Health and Safety Summit on November 28th at Croke Park. For more information, visit www.cifsafety.ie

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