We, as an industry, have been raising awareness about mental health and the importance of removing stigma for years. We have come a long way – and we can do more, for men in particular.
Fact: risk factors that workers encounter such as isolation, extreme physical environments, fatigue, unstable economic conditions, and camp culture can exacerbate underlying mental illnesses and strain mental wellness.
Fact: openly discussing life’s challenges, perceived weaknesses and failures, feelings and emotional needs is still challenging for many men for a variety of reasons largely stemming from damaging misconceptions of acceptable masculine behaviour.
Fact: that’s nonsense.
We need to be teaching our workers to recognize warning signs of depression and anxiety; we need to educate our field supervision in how to start a conversation and pursue the issue when they know something is wrong. We need to cancel the social construct that encourages men to deal with difficulties by becoming angry and turning to substance use to self-medicate.
We need to go a step further than this by establishing a culture of “checking-in” with our colleagues and encouraging them to share what’s going on at home and what else may be troubling them. When you ask with the intent to listen, rather than the fake check-in we are tempted to do, it can help identify challenges before people get to a point where it’s affecting their professional life. Mental leading indicators, if you will.
But most importantly, we need men to give voice to their experiences. We need our male leaders to show a younger generation that life can be really challenging and asking for extra support, resources and time is allowed (encouraged, even!) Finding the inherent value in sharing men’s stories of struggle, addiction, depression and anxiety with a view to help other men prioritize their own mental wellness could create a step-change in this conversation leading to healthier and happier lives.
Kentech is working toward making mental health a part of every risk assessment, a regularly discussed topic during HSE meetings, a given area of support covered through our EAP and an area of continuous improvement. We’re actively pursuing ways to ensure each and every person has access to the support they need when they need it. By teaching young men to unpack their emotional triggers and practice meaningful self-care, we can start to create a shift in perspective in our industry.