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Starting mental health conversations among tradies

23 September 2019

23/09/2019

Switched On believes strongly in opening up conversations about mental health in the workplace. We have a number of mental health and wellbeing initiatives underway to support our staff and industry partners, and to inspire others to start educating their workforce.

Switched On has always maintained a strong focus on health and safety. A key aspect of this is maintaining positive mental health – both on and off the worksite.

In 2018, the company began working with the Mental Health Foundation to look at further developing mental health and wellbeing initiatives across the organisation.

The crucial importance of starting a conversation around mental health was highlighted further through the sudden death of Jonny Hughes, brother to Switched On Chief Executive Chris Hughes and partner in the family business, in early 2019. 

“Jonny’s death really turned the family, and the workplace, upside down.  But since then we’ve been realising how we can use Jonny’s memory to create more of an awareness among staff and industry partners around mental health,” Chris says.

Chris Hughes 2MP4

Picture: Switched On Chief Executive, Chris Hughes

Switched On’s mental health education initiatives include specialised training for senior leaders, education for all staff to help them identify peers who may be struggling, and proactive wellbeing discussions as a key part of regular meetings. All education is focused on the Te Whare Tapa Whā model of hauora, which covers spiritual health, physical health, whānau health and mental health.

As part of the company’s mental health education programme, Switched On invited mental health advocate Mike King to speak to staff and partner businesses at an induction event in Christchurch. Mike encouraged all attendees to think about their own mental health journey, and shared some of his story of growing up in New Zealand.

“We are taught that we must always be confident, we must always be in control – so we hide these feelings of vulnerability and self-doubt from the world, and its having a devastating effect, especially on our kids,” Mike said to attendees.

Mike King 2MP2

Picture: Mental Health Advocate Mike King, speaking to attendees from the construction industry

His frank conversation was well received by over 600 attendees from the construction industry, and stimulated conversations with other businesses on a national level.

One of those attendees was Paul Lynch, owner of FloorRight Installations – a partner business of Switched On. He says it is positive to see a company the size of Switched On taking the initiative to talk about mental health as part of keeping workers safe. 

“Health and safety education often neglects the most important tool that every tradie should have in their kit, which is the tool that sits on top of their shoulders – their head,” says Paul. 

Mike King Event 2MP2

Picture: Switched On believe in educating their workforce about mental health awareness

Switched On has also contributed to a series of videos with the Mental Health Foundation, alongside other industry leaders.

The group continues to promote mental health awareness and education for all staff and partner contractors as a key part of health and safety at work.

“Mental health is one of those things that tradespeople just don’t talk about. What we’re trying to do is turn that around and be more proactive – bring the conversation up, say that it’s okay to talk about it. And that’s not just within our workplace – we’re encouraging our partner businesses and the wider industry to talk about mental health too,” Chris says.

Mental health will continue to be a key part of our Health and Safety focus at Switched On, and we look forward to sharing future initiatives with you.

Where to get help:

1737 – Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

Anxiety New Zealand - 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)

Supporting Families in Mental Illness – 0800 732 825

Alcoholics Anonymous - 0800 AA WORKS, or aa.org.nz

If it is an emergency or you, or someone you know, is at risk, call 111.