It's Time we Demolish the Tough Guy in Construction

It's Time we Demolish the Tough Guy in Construction

Posted by Paul Rafferty on

Growing up as a man puts you at the helm of many stigmas.

Men aren't allowed to cry as much as makes them look weak.

Men can't talk about how they are feeling, or open up about the struggles they are dealing with inside - you just need to toughen up and deal with it.

There will be exceptions as always, but for the majority of men - this is reality.

So when you head over in to the construction industry - where 90% of the workforce are men -  it's no surprise that mental health issues are overlooked and the pressure of bottling it up inevitably results in catastrophic consequences.

The Office for National Statistics reported more suicides in construction than any other profession in the five years to the end of 2015, with 1,409 men committing suicide and 10 women.

Men are also 6 times more likely to die from suicide than you are from a fall in the construction industry.

Men who work in construction are some of the least likely to open up because the job is so physically demanding.

Why is this important?

To deal with the workload, you need to be strong physically. Some might say you need to be a "tough guy" to work in construction.

When working with others, the more work you can do can determine how tough you come across - and some think this helps determine how you rank within the group (who is the alpha male?). 

Something is a 2 man lift? I'll manage that on my own no bother.

Knees are starting to hurt on the floor? I'll push through the pain and get used to it.

All of this showing off how tough you are physically transfers right over to showing how tough you are mentally too.

You don't want to be that guy that talks about his feelings - that's a sign of weakness.  

This tough guy stigma does more harm than good.

In reality, the tough guy is the one who faces his fears and opens up about his struggles. 

It's time we flip the Tough Guy persona straight on it's head.

Yes, it is important to be strong mentally, but that doesn't mean you have to deal with things on your own.

Most of the time, the guys you work with will have went through the same thing before.

If you are having troubles at home with your wife...guess what, Tom has been teetering on the edge of divorce for 6 months now.

Are you in pain physically but don't want to let on incase the guys think you are a wimp? Guess what, Gary's back has been killing him for months and he's had to start going to the physio for it.

The problem is, because in construction you are somewhat forced to apply this tough guy persona, you never learn how to open up and deal with emotions properly.

When you get stressed - you go to the pub. You go to the gym. You avoid tackling the issue because you don't know how to deal with it in the first place.

Numbing is the easy alternative.

The idea of numbing pain is so common in our lives that it seems like the natural thing to do. That's why drug abuse - including alcohol and prescription drugs are so popular.

It's easy to read and understand what the problem is. The hard part comes after this realisation. What are you going to do about it?

Because you could easily just read this article, feel sad or motivated for a minute or two, and then something else has your attention and it's forgotten about.

The hard part is the action. What can you do today to help someone who is suffering. To help yourself. To help beat up this tough guy persona that is killing so many men each year.


1. Seek Professional Advice.

You wouldn't ask your mum to teach you how to fly a plane. No. You'd want an experienced pilot with many flights under her belt and the qualifications to go with it. 

Treat understanding your mind in the same way - consult a professional. This article explains further the impact that therapy can have on the mind - "I want boys to learn the benefits of therapy to save their mental health as men."


2. Practice Mindfulness

There are some excellent techniques to help you or others get started with understanding your mind. One stand out technique for when you are in a negative rut is this:

Think of 3 things you are grateful for in your life today.

Focus hard on these - think of how these things/people make you feel. Zero in on the positive emotions and amplify them. Let them shine out the negative, darker thoughts. The video below show exactly what the problem is in the construction industry and also a way that we can fix it by speaking

This article goes in to more detail on techniques you can use and is an excellent starting point - "7 Ways to Deal with Negative Thoughts."


3. Support organisations working hard to fight the fight.

There are, thankfully, hundreds of organisations out there focused on ways to help people with mental health issues. Without these groups of people fighting the good fight - we wouldn't have many of our loved ones with us today. Often, they help people who are right on the edge of deciding whether to live or die. It is so important that we support these organisations because there is only so much we can do as individuals.

Mates in Mind are a charity dedicated to raising awareness and addressing the stigma of poor mental health and improve positive mental wellbeing in the UK construction industry. This video below is a great example of what can be a standard day for many suffering in construction.

There is never a better time than right now to start talking.



To help Mates in Mind work with more and more people - Team Recoil are running the Santa Dash in Glasgow on the 9th of December 2018.

We are aiming to raise £500 for Mates in Mind so any support would be amazing.

You can donate over on our just giving page HERE


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