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Look after your colleagues’ mental health

By May 27, 2020 No Comments

Following Mental Health Awareness Week, IBC offers some advice on how the merchant industry can look after themselves and their colleagues, and reveals how it is supporting a charity that focuses on helping young people.

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we’re living and, following the success of 2020’s Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24th May), people are more aware of the importance of protecting their mental health than ever before.

Charities are reporting a spike in callers experiencing heightened levels of anxiety and loneliness, while for others, concerns over job security and finances have led to sleepless nights for many.

At the same time, much of the community is pulling together. Reports of people going above and beyond to support neighbours, friends, and even strangers can be found on the news and on social media every day, as the country looks out for each other and champions NHS staff and key workers.

The construction industry has endured a turbulent few months, with uncertainty over when and how it is safe to work making it difficult to know whether merchants should stay open to support emergency work, or close to protect staff and risk possible job losses.

As more merchants and manufacturers reopen, and the country begins to ease lockdown restrictions, it is just as important to continue to look after your mental health, and that of your family and work colleagues, as it has been during the height of the pandemic.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the construction industry was experiencing a mental health crisis. Male site workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male, figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown. Between 2011 and 2015, in-work suicides from within the construction and building trades made up 13.2% of all such recorded deaths, despite construction only accounting for seven per cent of the UK workforce.

A number of charities and awareness groups are campaigning for change within the industry, to make mental health support as important for companies to provide as the hard work they do to protect their colleagues’ physical health and safety.

Construction industry charity the Lighthouse Club provides financial and emotional support to the community and their families, while the Rainy Day Trust provides financial and other assistance to those in the home improvement industry who have fallen on hard times.

Other charities, including Mates in Mind, are campaigning to address the stigma of poor mental health and to promote positive mental wellbeing across workplaces, with a particular focus on the construction industry.

Many of these charities agree that the construction industry still suffers from a stereotypical ‘tough guy’ image, with some people working on site, at merchants and in manufacturing believing that admitting they need support makes them seem somehow ‘lesser’.

With this in mind, charities are urging people to look out for their colleagues, and to #asktwice if they see someone acting differently. It’s easy for people to say they’re okay when they’re not, and yet something as simple as asking twice could be all that person needs to begin to open up about their concerns.

The Time to Change campaign is pushing for society to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems, so that people no longer have to fear being treated differently if they are struggling.

But, how can you tell whether or not someone around you might be suffering from a mental health condition? Some signs to look out for include:

  • Increased lateness or absenteeism
  • Decreased productivity due to distraction or cognitive slowing
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Increased levels of tiredness
  • Isolation from friends and colleagues
  • Agitation or increased conflict among co-workers
  • Increased feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Decreased problem solving ability.

If someone you work with is showing any of these signs, the best thing that you can do is to offer them a safe space where they can share their concerns at their open pace, and with no distractions.

Open-ended questions can encourage people to open up, and sometimes having someone they feel comfortable talking to can make all the difference in encouraging them to go on to seek any help and support they may need.

It’s also important to remember, however, that you are probably not a trained counsellor or medical expert so, if the problem is serious, the best thing you can do is encourage them to seek medical help, or to put them in touch with some of the charities and support groups named in this blog, who can point them in the direction of the help they need.


Supporting young people

IBC Buying Group is proud to be a Patron of Unitas Youth Zone, a charity that is building a UK-wide network of youth clubs offering world-class facilities that give young people a safe and inspiring place to go in their leisure time. Key to the charity’s goal is to give them somewhere to go, something to do and, crucially, someone to talk to.

Since the lockdown, while the Barnet-based Unitas Youth Zone itself site is closed, the charity is continuing to reach out to its members to support them during this challenging time. The charity says it is seeing signs of deteriorating mental health among its most vulnerable members, and those with additional needs, and so it is working hard to reach out to those young people, setting up group Zoom calls so they can speak to each other, and with Unitas’ youth work team. A new helpline has also been established to allow young people to reach out and request a call from a youth worker.

Unitas is also helping some of its senior members to run a video podcast where groups of young people and staff discuss a chosen topic together. The first season of UniChat, launched at the beginning of the year, was a three-part discussion of relationships, focusing on romantic relationships, ‘fake friends’ and familial relationships. The second season will be focused on the experiences of the pandemic, after Unitas members have reported experiencing increasing levels of anxiety and isolation during this time.

The charity is also delivering food parcels and essential household items to families that need it in the local area, while using its social media platforms to promote content including guided meditation, at-home fitness videos, art tutorials and positive messaging.

A Unitas spokesperson said: “We find that engaging with our members virtually and providing them with positive messaging, and healthy ways to keep busy and interact with our team and each other, goes a long way to supporting them at a time when we know that, for many, mental health is becoming a real challenge.”

Kishor Harsiani, Strategy and Finance Director at IBC Buying Group, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown is a challenging time for the entire country, with many reporting rising anxiety levels and concerns about family and friends. It has never been more important for everyone to support each other, and as difficult as the last few months have been, it’s also been inspiring to see communities coming together to help those in need wherever they can.

“At IBC We’re proud to be continuing to support Unitas’ vital work with young people in our local community, and hope that this is just the start of a newly invigorated wave of community spirit that will last far longer than the pandemic itself.”

For more information on the benefits of joining IBC Buying Group as a Member or Supplier, visit