Health and safety is a key part of running a business: yet ‘health’ can often be neglected, especially one’s mental health and wellbeing. Stress, depression, anger, addiction; these issues can affect anyone. Government data suggests one-in-five New Zealanders experience mental health and addiction challenges at any given time.
Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 23-29 September, so we’ve pulled together some industry specific information. It’s good to see traditionally male-dominated industries taking action on mental health through conference sessions, online resources and wellbeing workshops. Support from these sectors is vital as young to middle age men are highly represented in New Zealand’s suicide statistics.
Agriculture and Forestry
The statistics for farmer suicide are alarming, with approximately 20 deaths per year attributed to suicide. Farm and rural mental health advocate Doug Avery pointed out to Stuff that social change was needed, but it would take time and better resources to reduce the distressing rate of suicide amongst famers. Avery said that farming is a male dominated industry and men are reluctant to share their problems. "Rural males are more staunch and are working in an isolated place," said Avery.
In the rural industry there are groups tackling wellbeing and providing support networks and information. Farmstrong is a wellbeing programme for rural communities. Its website has plenty of information on topics such as healthy thinking and managing stress.
Networking within the industry gives access to other like-minded people who can understand or have experienced the same challenges. NZ Young Farmers is an organisation that connects people in the rural communities – you don’t have to be a farmer to join! The clubs help members work on leadership and personal skills, and the organisations have recently begun GoodYarn wellness workshops around New Zealand for members.
Rural Women is another awesome organisation for women to connect with others and overcome the sometimes isolating nature of working on the land.
Mike King, comedian and mental health advocate, was the keynote speaker at the Civil Contractors New Zealand conference in August. Civil Contractors New Zealand and Teletrac Navman’s 2019 Construction Industry Survey found that 64 percent of those in the civil construction industry were always or often concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of staff. However, around two thirds of people (35 percent) felt that their business was not that well prepared to deal with mental health issues of staff. A further 5 percent said their business was not at all prepared.
SiteSafe is developing resources around wellbeing with an industry focus. Some of their most compelling resources are video interviews with small business owners who share some of their own experiences. Dave and Nicki Crowley of Scafit Scaffolding talk openly about the pressures of running a company and ways to help deal with them, such as pulling together a simple advisory board, networking with other small business owners and talking with your partner.
Paul Lynch of from FloorRight Installations hosts a Monday morning extended toolbox, including a bit of chat about the weekend’s ups and down. He lets others in the workplace know that it’s OK to chat about hard things that are going on in their lives.
Construction Health and Safety New Zealand has created a mental health in construction for managers guide, to help managers better understand and deal with mental health issues affecting workers. CHASNZ has also produced a mental health pocket guide for workers – to give them some assistance for before, during and after a conversation with mental health with a workmate.
Long hours away from home, shift work, fatigue, physical inertia and margin pressure are all factors that impact on staff and business owners in the transport industry. Health and wellbeing are foundational to safety behind the wheel, so driver wellbeing needs to be included in any health and safety planning.
Mental health will be a key focus this September at the Road Transport Forum conference, with Craig Membrey, a mental health charity ambassador and the owner of Membrey’s Transport & Crane Hire, speaking about his personal experience and the wider issue.
The healthy truck driver programme is a driver-focused workshop run by the NZ Trucking Association’s highly successful Road Safety Truck. Its topics include mental health (namely stress and depression), alcohol and drugs, and fatigue.
For a hands on approach to relaxing and getting some social time in, Menz Shed is an organisation that sets up shed spaces for people to undertake practical projects such as carpentry and metal work. There are 108 sheds throughout the North and South islands, with a further 30 in development.
Where to find more help and support for mental health issues:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 - Provides 24-hour telephone counselling.
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 - Provides 24-hour telephone counselling.
Tautoko: 0508 828 865 - provides support, information and resources to people at risk of suicide, and their family, whānau and friends.
National Depression Initiative - depression.org.nz (for adults), 0800 111 757 - 24-hour service.
If it is an emergency or you feel you or someone you know is at risk, please call 111.
For information about suicide prevention, see www.mentalhealth.org.nz/suicideprevention