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Mental Health Awareness - Colleen Upton

With Mental Health Awareness Week on 18-24 September, Master Plumbers asked Colleen Upton, General Manager, Hutt Gas and Plumbing how she supports her own mental health and the mental health of her team. 

We talk a lot about the mental health of our staff, but often as managers and employers we don’t focus on our own mental health.  After 30 plus years in this industry I think I have experienced a fair number of events including attempted suicides by staff, domestic breakups, injuries outside of work with long term ACC implications, apprentices learning how to grow up and adult, family bereavements, alcoholism, etc – all those things that make life a tapestry and that you will encounter with a large staff over a long period of time. 

You often go over and over the events and ask yourself if you handled it right – because some of these things are fly by the seat of your pants stuff – and let’s face it none of us are trained social workers.  The best I can do is go into “mum mode” as this seems to work best.  When someone needs you in a hurry the 0800 number won’t cut it, nor will EAP – they need you now.  We care about our staff and as employers we need to also care about ourselves.

So what do I do afterwards?  Some particularly stressful and sad events have resulted in a good cry to let it out – no shame in that, and usually just talking to my husband or my grown up kids has been helpful.  I’m lucky that one of my kids is a policeman and he is brilliant to talk to, as he makes me keep it in perspective (my worst work day can’t match his for sure).  He is also a wealth of knowledge on different resources.  I often self talk – just going over the events in my head and the outcome and this helps me sort out the wheat and the chaff.  Talk to the colleagues you have within your branch, or even around the country – many of them will be experiencing similar issues and may also be thankful to have someone who understands what they are going through.

I have reached out to Kereama on a couple of occasions to check in with what I have done – and he has been brilliant – reinforcing that you can only do so much. If the person you are working with doesn’t have a will to change then you can’t make them – no matter how much you want to.  I am a person who counts myself lucky every morning. I am grateful for what I have and for the people around me and I remember this on a daily basis, which makes things a lot better. 

Mental Health Awareness Week 
Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week: https://mhaw.nz/

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