COVID-19 pandemic taking a crushing toll on mental health of tradies

Being out of work is tough, but even those who still have a job are not immune to the pressures the pandemic is putting on mental health.

Chris Hopper, owner of Horsham-based construction company CHS Group, sees the strain on the faces of tradies maintaining social housing and doing necessary contract work for utility companies.

He said trying to keep up with demand amid a shortage of building supplies while dealing with the impact of home-schooling was wearing out his workforce.

“We’re obviously very lucky to have parts of our businesses still operating,” Mr Hopper said.

“The last two lockdowns we’ve noticed a real swing in attitudes and even moods of our staff, and that’s one of the real tough tasks we have as managers — trying to keep the mood up.

“It’s something we talk about a lot — mental health and wellbeing is really important, it’s affecting everything.”

In 2015, Queensland-based advocacy group MATES found construction workers were six times as likely to die by suicide than in a workplace accident.

Mr Hopper said his company held more team meetings than it used to, as much to help people through the day as to discuss the project at hand.

“We have to be open and honest with our clients about the delays to jobs,” he said.

Professor Patrick McGorry, who heads mental health organisation Orygen, said the “trauma or repeated stress” of the pandemic can build up over time.

“Maybe some people get inoculated against it by repeated exposure,” he told ABC Statewide Drive.

“But the average person — it just saps the morale after a while.

“The antidote to that is hope, but I think people have to be able to express how they feel before they can regroup and work out how they are going to get through it.

“People have got to be able to have someone they trust to vent to, and try and work out how to get by, day by day.”

Dr McGorry said more workers were needed in the mental health sector urgently.

“When people struggle and recognise they need help they can’t find it,” he said.

“People are booked out until the end of the year.

“If we need more contact tracers we find them instantly.

“We need to have the same urgency in addressing access for care.”

Source: ABC News

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