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Another mental awareness campaign!

3 min read: Not another mental awareness campaign! Well, not quite, yes and no. Sort of. Ok, it is, but this one is different. There’s a bit of a problem with many of the current mental health campaigns especially within the construction industry. They are superficial, targeted at the individual in a one size fits all way, they ‘tick-a-box’ for the company and are preached from up on high to those down below.

Let me explain further. Our behaviours are a product of the environment that we inhabit, different environments prompt different behaviours through prompts and feedback. Behaviours and individuals are not separate from the rest of the world, this also true for mental state. Our mental wellbeing is a greatly affected by our day to day behaviours which are a product of these environmental triggers and feedback. The environment includes other people too, what they say and what they do.

Each individual occupies a part of the world that is specific to them. Their perspective is of course theirs and no one else’s. Their experiences are unique to them but these individuals are also connected to everyone and everything else.

Emotions, feelings, thoughts, are triggered by external events. How we deal with that which happens to us depends upon our circumstances, current stressors, wellbeing and mental strength. This reinforces to some that targeting the individual with campaigns is the correct way to deal with the situation; it is not.

The individual is part of the bigger system. The individual is the symptom of what the system is producing. Treat only the symptom and we have not dealt with the cause or even acknowledged it. Building individual resilience without changing the environment the individual lives and works in, will only bring temporary ease.

Increasing the mental wellbeing of an individual requires a multifaceted approach bigger than the individual. It requires changes to the environment the person operates in to prompt and reinforce different behaviours, that in turn will lead to improved mental wellbeing.

We (the righteous rest of us who might not be in a suffering state at this moment in time) all too often loose patience with those who are. Even if we understand that they may not be in a ‘good’ place, we can run out of empathy very quickly for that nippy grumpy person who drinks a little too much and is always on their phone scrolling through social media to try and escape the present.

The irony is not lost on the person suffering.

We have a low tolerance to those who need us most. We blame their behaviours on personal traits rather than understanding the situational factors surrounding them; their environment. This is called Fundamental Attribution Error. It’s at the heart of loneliness and exclusion. It perpetuates a stand off between the person suffering and the people that can help and support.

This is not just true for mental health, it is true for most personal judgements of individuals.

Individuals are a product of their environment. This is basic behavioural science. Yet this knowledge is not being applied to most mental health improvement campaigns.

It’s time for change. It’s time to stop preaching and to stop judging. It’s time to apply the science of human behaviour to mental health. It’s time to make changes to the systems that people operate in, that will inevitably change their mental state. It’s time to provide both those suffering and those who can support with the tools to improve the system they operate in and stop the preaching.

Targeting the individual is a waste of time. No it’s a waste of opportunity.

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