James (pictured, right): As much as being a construction site manager is stressful, I used to view work as an escape from my life. I have three sons who suffer from a range of challenging conditions, two of them with autism.

But last year I began to really struggle. I started feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt anxious about doing things I wouldn’t have thought twice about before.

I got to the point where I was driving to work and felt like I wanted to turn the wheel of the car and drive into a tree or the barrier on the motorway.

I wanted to turn the wheel of the car and drive into a tree

Phil: It was noticed that James’ performance was going down. He wasn’t in a good place; he and his family were facing some really big challenges.

I and his line manager encouraged him to share his problems so we could help him. I immediately gave him some compassionate leave.

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James: I cried on the phone to them. It was very difficult to do that. They said, “We are really sorry to hear this. We’ll support you. You need to take some time off to get you back to where you were and to being the person you were.”

I felt so much better. It was a weight off my shoulders. I felt like just saying the words out loud helped straight away.

The company has a free wellbeing helpline that you can call, text or email anonymously if you prefer. You can just tell them how you are feeling. I didn’t really know about it until Phil told me.

You can’t wave a magic wand but being able to talk makes someone feel better.

Phil: In our line of work, especially within build teams, people are not keen to come forward to talk about poor mental health. It can be deemed as a weakness.

You can’t wave a magic wand but being able to talk makes someone feel better. You’re not qualified to give medical advice but you can listen and follow it up and reassure someone you care. My St John course taught me how to really listen.

James: Companies would definitely benefit from putting people on mental health first aid courses. Instead of automatically thinking “they are not doing their job” they might think, “wait a minute, are they OK?”

Having someone to talk about how things were, who wasn’t going to judge, and wasn’t my wife or parents, was so beneficial.

Now I’m performing really well again. 

Touch wood, I’m back to firing on all cylinders.

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