Mental Health- Keeping it High on the Agenda

Nick Sterling MD for Communities at Osborne, shares his experiences of Mental Health and how he is pleased its being taken seriously.
“I’m so glad that society in general and my sector in particular, the construction industry, is now showing signs of taking mental health seriously.

Poor mental health has always been with us and it always will be with us; in fact its becoming worse in todays pressurised world. My hope now is that this current focus isn’t just ‘todays hot topic’ that falls away in a few months but stays high on all our agendas.

I know first hand how stressful life can be and how vital it is to have a support network that is there for you when you need it. A support that isn’t judgemental and is there just for you. I was fortunate to have that through my family and friends when I needed it during the recession of the early 90’s when my thriving business, overnight, went deep into trouble through a key customer going bust.

I was one month away from losing our home and all that comes with that. It was tough. My health declined rapidly along with my moods and I wasn’t a good person to be around but frankly if it wasn’t for my network of family and friends I doubt I would be here writing this now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I was suicidal but I was in a deeply bad place and thank heavens I had a support network to help steer me through it.
I shall be eternally grateful to Helen, my wife, and my brilliant friends who were there for me through severely tough times. But sadly I know many others don’t have that same support.

At Osborne in recent years we have had the tragedies of not one but two suicides from amongst our people. They had deep personal issues, unrelated to work, they just couldn’t cope with and tragically they took the last resort solution as they saw it. Heaven knows what they must have been thinking and what effect this had on their families but I do know the effect it had on their work colleagues and on me.
Could we have done something to prevent this? I’m not sure because people do keep such things deep inside as we still today have the stigma of poor mental health being seen as a ‘weakness’, particularly in the macho world of construction.

But over 3 years ago I decided we could and should try to do more.
We started to think how we could help our people to identify the signs of someone struggling with something. We didn’t want to make everyone mental health professionals but we did want to give them the tools to say “something isn’t quite right here” and then alert the professionals.

I’m proud and humbled to tell you that since we started to speak about mental health in Osborne we have had at least one wonderful outcome – we so very recently helped prevent one of our people taking the ultimate way out as they saw it.

It is inappropriate to name people but suffice to say, without the vigilance and intervention of the manager concerned, one of our people may not have been with us today. His manager cared enough to notice something wasn’t right and he took positive action. I’m delighted to say the person is receiving structured support from Osborne and is making great progress.

Mental health really is that serious.

My view then and now is that if we can help just one person to not take that ultimate last resort solution then we absolutely must do so. It really is worth doing.

At Osborne we take the wellbeing of our people seriously and we have many different avenues of support in place. But I am delighted we have got together with Mind to really embed the culture of helping our people through their difficult times in a non judgemental way.
I know what we at Osborne are doing isn’t the panacea but it’s a start and we will build on it – because I don’t want to have to speak to the relatives of one of our people in such tragic circumstances ever again.”