On 25 May Rapid Solutions held its first industry forum for promoting positive mental health, understanding its importance for the pest and building services industry. We partnered with Lifeline to bring their ‘In Conversation with Lifeline’ presentation direct to pesties in the Newcastle NSW area, using AgServ’s Cardiff based facility.
The objective was simple: help the pest control industry access information and practical tools to assist them in supporting their loved ones, their workmates and themselves to build resilience and seek help if they experience struggles with mental health.
Why? Our recent social media poll found ’mental health’ was the cause that the pest control industry felt most passionate about supporting. Many shared their experiences of supporting loved ones with struggles, feeling isolated and fearful in their own mental health challenges, or simply not knowing what to do when they see someone hurting or deteriorating.
It’s a growing problem in Australia, and one that seems to have worsened since the global COVID pandemic that began early in 2020.
Many Australians’ mental health at risk
65,000 people in Australia attempt suicide every year. Nine people every day lose their lives to suicide. Consistently over the past 10 years, the number of suicide deaths has been approximately three times higher in males than females. The current statistics are double our country’s annual road death toll.
Nationally, Lifeline receives more than 90,000 calls every month – that’s one every 30 seconds – and calls typically last for about 26 minutes. Each day Lifeline crisis supporters create 120 safety plans; safety plans are practical plans agreed upon by the crisis supporter and the individual to help keep the individual safe from suicide.
Lifeline across the Hunter region offers free counselling to all. It can engage with people over the age of 18 years either face to face, via video, or via mobile phone. There’s no referral needed, and the free service is accessible Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. Typically, people accessing the service will be connected to a counsellor within 48 hours.
At our Newcastle event, Lifeline representative Patrick Calabria explained that people often think “what I’m going through isn’t that bad, I don’t need help”. But it’s been proven that by engaging help early we can literally help save lives by- preventing our or someone’s mental health from deteriorating to the point where serious intervention is needed.
Sometimes it’s us who needs the support. By that I mean the ones listening endlessly to the struggles of our employees or loved ones, the ones who feel like we’ve done all we can, but nothing seems to work.
Lifeline is here for us, too. The service can help give us coping strategies and share tools to help steer our loved one towards being open to receiving help.
Key takeaways from our Lifeline event
Some of the key lessons we learned at the event:
Engage early to build a safe space
- Provide a safe place at work (and home). Make it a place where it’s normal to talk about mental health; where people feel comfortable to check in if they’re not feeling right
- Make asking “are you ok?” part of your workplace culture. So people know someone genuinely cares about them, actually sees them, and takes their mental health as seriously as their physical health
- Promote engagement with service providers such as Lifeline. Ensure people feel prepared and supported if things head downhill unexpectedly
- Consider ways to proactively involve your people in positive mental health. Activities like the campaigns and events Lifeline regularly runs are important for inclusion, such as the 25-day push up challenge that starts on 1 June
Tips for approaching someone who’s struggling but resistant to help
- Be patient. It takes time to break down the barriers that people often put up to protect themselves from shame, fear and vulnerability around their mental health
- Check in regularly. Whether weekly or daily, make it regular to reassure people at risk that you’re in it for the long haul with them and that they are receiving the professional help they need
- Keep at it. Continue to let them know you care, that you see their struggle, even if they’re telling you they’re “OK”
- Reach out to Lifeline for backup. You can make the call to 13 11 14 with the person, or call them yourself to ask for strategies and get support for yourself on this journey
- Know what you’re doing is important. Be assured that you noticing they’re struggling may be the one thing keeping them alive
- Keep reassuring. Let them know constantly “when you’re ready, I’m here to talk and support you”
Consider training to develop your support skills
- Lifeline runs workplace programs including domestic violence awareness, mental health and wellbeing and more
- Access toolkits and other resources that can be referenced or displayed in your workplace, incorporated into toolbox meetings and your WHS practices (resources can be found here: https://www.lifeline.org.au/resources/toolkit-downloads/)
- Invite speakers on the topic of mental health into your workplace, play some YouTube clips at your meetings and/or include short articles in your business newsletters
We hope this article helps you make a safer and more supportive mental health space for yourself and those around you.
Watch out for future news from Rapid Solutions on how we’re working with Lifeline to further support positive mental health in the pest and building services industry. Although we offer general liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, business vehicle insurance and other business insurances to this sector, we believe it’s important to help protect our clients in other ways.