As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Sime’s John Moran discusses the importance of talking about the effects of crime and stress in the industry.

The skills gap, along with the uncertainty of Brexit, are two factors that have led to the increased workload and, as a result, added pressure on tradespeople working in the plumbing and heating industry.

The reality of being over-worked and under-staffed can ultimately take its toll on our mental wellbeing. This combined with the added pressure of being self-employed and the risks that this brings, particularly with crimes like van and toll theft on the rise, has had a massive impact on tradespeople across the UK. A shocking statistic shows that the number of reported tool thefts almost doubled in 2016/17. This meant that nearly twice as many van owners have had their livelihood threatened at the hands of criminals than in 2014/15.

The effect that something like this can have on someone’s health is huge. Many victims of van and tool theft admit to entering a period of depression which can have a detrimental effect on family life, as well as business.

Although depression is very common, it is not widely talked about, particularly by men.

Shockingly, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged between 20 and 49 in the UK. 5,821 suicides were reported in Great Britain in 2017 and 75% of these were male, confirming that men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women.

A large problem is that men often feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to, and that mental health would be seen as a weakness to our colleagues, which is why many of us hide any issues we may have.

What are we doing to prevent this?

A new podcast has been launched by Expert Trades to try and get tradesmen talking about their troubles with stress, anxiety and mental health. MENTalk is hosted by tradesmen and it is designed to support and encourage other tradesmen in the industry to talk more openly about issues with mental health.

Employers, influencers and big brands can make a significant difference in the industry. Spreading awareness of the problem and encouraging people to talk to their employer or fellow installers is the best way to spread the ‘let’s talk’ message. Campaigns like #noVANber and the launch of the MENTalk podcast are great examples of this.

Social media is a great tool for us to stay connected with our fellow installers, and it is a great platform to reach out so that nobody feels alone – even if they spend most of their time on the road. It is also a great resource to share personal struggles or see how problems like van and tool theft have affected other people in the industry.

This is an extremely important issue and Mental Health Awareness Week is a great way to start the conversation about it. However, this is only a starting point. We must continue the conversation and each do our bit to ensure that these statistics start decreasing.