Builder's tea and texting used to encourage construction workers to open up about mental health
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If there's one thing that will bring Brits together, it's a cup of tea. From teachers to politicians to builders, we all love a brew, so now construction workers are being encouraged to come together, get the kettle on, and get talking.
Dubbed the Big Brew, the tea-drinking events were launched by the charity Band of Builders (BoB) and come this year in line with a new text message service, which not only offers help and support to tradespeople and contractors, but also to their families.
Former plasterer Chris Joy, 44, is among those who have received support from Band of Builders after he experienced mental health issues and was diagnosed with a rare degenerative neurological condition called Cerebellar Ataxia.
His diagnosis changed his life and forced him to give up his career as a plasterer, but it wasn't until that moment that Chris realised he had actually been struggling for about 15 years.
Speaking to LADbible, Chris explained that for more than a decade he had experienced self esteem issues, insecurities and worries, but he believed that was something everyone experienced and never related it to his mental health.
"I would not have classed that as a matter of issue in myself, because I didn't really know," Chris said, adding: "I suppose there was a lot of denial as well."
Chris isn't wrong in the belief that everyone struggles with their own issues, but being able to recognise them for what they are is often necessary to start dealing with them. Sometimes it's opening up to others that can bring about this recognition, but Chris noted that in his line of work there weren't a lot of people he would encounter regularly over the years.
"Opening up to anybody was difficult with the fact that one day I'd be working with one person, then the next day I'd be working with another," he explained.
Chris was happy to talk about his worries at work when he could, but noted that a lot of the people he worked with were 'not the kind of people you could give your deepest, darkest secrets to'. During his time in construction, he found he had to be 'very, very careful with who you spoke to or what you said', explaining that if something got passed on to the 'wrong person' or got taken 'out of context', it could spread like 'wildfire'.
If that was the case, there was a risk of becoming 'a victim of bullying, massively', Chris said.
"if you didn't have a thick skin, if you reacted negatively, then that's it, you've got a target on your back as someone who can easily be wound up... It could be that targeting on site, regardless of your age."
Such a reaction is not always the case, but the mere threat of being bullied or targeted as so-called 'banter' is enough to make anyone keep their mouth shut.
With the help of BoB's text service, however, construction workers won't even need to open their mouths in order to open up about themselves, if they don't want to. Instead, they can simply text BOB to 85258 to get support.
Chris himself became involved with the charity after his Cerebellar Ataxia diagnosis, when he could no longer hold tools or work on construction sites, and struggled getting in to his own home because the drive and path were too uneven for his mobility scooter.
He put in a request with Band of Builders to have them revamp the exterior of his home, and his life was changed by the volunteers who came and transformed his driveway into one he could navigate.
Chris has commended the charity for the launch of the text service, noting that the fact it's been released 'by construction guys, for construction guys' is a 'fantastic way for someone to take that first step' when they don't want to say the words out loud.
"Once you've started it, it's probably never going to be as bad as you think it's going to be," he said.
With the cost of living crisis making us all feel the strain, the text service and Big Brew events aim to offer help with issues such as general anxiety to suicidal thoughts.
Chris commended the Big Brew as a chance for workers to 'bond over a cup of tea' on sites they are familiar with, explaining that 'before you know it, your mouth is open' and you can be having the conversations in a place you 'feel comfortable', because you 'go there every day'.
"It's such a simple but effective campaign to run. Right in the heart of where everyone goes every day. It's amazing," Chris said.
As for those who may be friends or family of someone struggling, Chris advised being 'available' and willing to listen, pointing out that 'you haven't got to fix' the issues, but just be there to show support.
Having come to realise and face his mental health issues, Chris has warned that overcoming struggles is a 'long road'. However, he encouraged people not to be put off by the fact there is no quick fix, saying: "My mental health was bad for 15 years. I didn't realise it. When I did ask for help, within 12 months, I was felt better than I have ever have been, in ways I can't even describe. It's an amazing feeling."
If you want to get in touch with Band of Builders, you can visit their website bandofbuilders.org. To receive support, text BOB to 85258