In support of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, Mark Lowson, Commercial Director for our Highways business unit emphasises the importance of raising awareness for mental health and shares some of his personal experiences in an open and honest interview.
By supporting the Mental Health Awareness campaign in this way, Mark takes an important step to destigmatise mental health and hopes it will inspire others to seek help if they need it.
Why is it so hard to talk about mental health?
“We have to get over the stigma attached to mental health issues that makes people believe that anyone struggling is ‘weak’ in some way. It most certainly doesn’t, but I can understand why this makes conversations about mental health difficult.
“When colleagues are struggling with mental health, what can make it worse is the feeling that others won’t understand. I know a little bit about how they feel, and how to deal with it and the advice I need to give. The most important advice I could give to anyone that is struggling with their mental health is to talk to someone, anyone, just don’t hold it all in. It’s amazing how much it helps just by talking to people, so they understand what you’re going through.
“The conversations can be hard for managers too, especially if they haven’t been through any similar experiences, and so struggle to relate. What we need to do is make sure our managers have a level of understanding and compassion so that they are in a position to help.
“The follow up is extremely important too. It’s a question of timing and getting that right, but you need to show that you do care and that they are an important part of the nmcn family.
“Peer to peer support is also important, for example, operatives might want to talk to other operatives.”
How did talking help you?
“I suffered from anxiety in my early twenties which was brought on by a combination of issues. I had just started a new job and was living in a strange place, a long way from home and without friends and family.
“When I first went to the doctors, the biggest positive for me was that they confirmed that there was an issue. I was in a vicious circle, thinking there was something seriously wrong with me. At that time, there certainly wasn’t a lot of awareness about mental health, especially not in construction.
“The doctor suggested going to counselling and I had counselling from a brilliant professional. The experience I had talking to someone was fantastic and within a couple of years, I was back to what was normal for me. I do feel that I can now relate to others, as I know the pain and I know the triumph of recovery.
“I’m sure that it’s not just me that can relate to this subject, I imagine lots of others can too. It can be difficult to talk about this issue within the construction industry, but the more we do, the better it will get. Please do not ever feel you are alone with your issues, there is help there for you.”
How do you recognise when someone is struggling with their mental health?
“Different people have different signs, but in my experience, they’re noticeably acting out of character.
“For some people, it’s sounding irritable, working all hours but achieving little, making mistakes and/or being very quiet and withdrawn. There are lots of signs and It’s important that we spot these signs as soon as possible, as something deeper might be going on.
“It’s difficult to have face to face conversations at the moment, and these are troubling times for most people, some more than others. We’re all stressed and anxious about the current Covid-19 situation, and it may have made matters worse for those that were already struggling. We should all be speaking to each other more about mental health issues and the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19.
“I don’t know all of what’s going on in the business, but I’ve seen enough to know that mental health is a big issue and is an area we need to keep supporting.”
As a business, we have taken steps to tackle the stigma around mental health and to improve support, helping our colleagues to spot poor mental health and signpost help and resources. We continue to raise awareness and improve mental health and wellbeing for our people and our communities.
We hope that Mark’s story inspires others to seek help if they need it.
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Show compassion, share understanding, keep listening and keep talking.
In support of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, Mark Lowson, Commercial Director for our Highways business unit emphasises the importance of raising awareness for mental health and shares some of his...Read more