mental health

We shouldn’t ignore mental health issues in plumbing and heating

It’s brilliant that the UK is becoming more open to talking about mental health. Those removed from the subject may not know how prevalent mental health conditions are among the general population. 

Around one in four people (25%) experience mental health problems each year. But, shockingly, statistics from the Office for National Statistics show men working in skilled trades, like plumbing and construction, are at a higher risk of suicide. They’re 35% more at risk of suicide than the general population. 

We spend a substantial part of our lives at work, so it’s easy to see how occupation and mental health may be linked. But what other factors are at play?

Mental health in skilled trades

People working in plumbing and heating may be at a higher risk of poor mental health for several reasons, including:

  • Long hours and physically exhausting jobs
  • High-stress projects
  • Higher rates of self-employment and the stresses it brings
  • Fewer holidays and breaks
  • Working alone and isolation

However, these reasons by themselves don’t seem to provide a full explanation. 

Men are significantly more likely to die by suicide than women. Heating and plumbing are hugely male-dominated industries and this could partially account for some of the disparity. However, this leads to further questions. Why are men more prone to suicide and how can the heating and plumbing industry help tackle this issue?

People who die from suicide are often not in contact with health services and often push through in silence as their health deteriorates. Men are particularly prone to suffering in silence. Our society tells us that being a man means being strong and being masculine means being able to hide your emotions, otherwise you’re weak. The plumbing and heating industry is sometimes prone to forwarding this culture of traditional masculinity which can lead to terrible results.

How can the industry address these issues?

Things clearly need to change in the industry. It starts with creating a culture where workers feel supported and where they can be open about how they’re feeling. We could save a lot of lives if people had somewhere they could turn without judgement, as easily as they would if they had a physical illness. 

To build this environment we can:

  • Introduce open-door policies
  • Ask how people are, checking up on colleagues whose behaviour may seem different
  • Be great listeners
  • Provide resources
  • Keep things confidential
  • Have one-on-one catch-ups
  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance

As occupational mental health becomes an increasing concern in the UK, it’s time the industry acted. We can become part of the change simply by providing more support to those in need. If you need someone to talk to, we would recommend MENTalk, one of the many great groups growing on Facebook, whose page you can find at this link.

Condensate Pro’s products are designed by professionals with years of experience in the industry. We want the industry to improve and become more supportive of the people who make it what it is. If you’re struggling with your mental health, the NHS has a list of resources where you can get immediate help. To see how our products can make your staff’s lives a little easier, visit our website.