Ruby Wax talks mental health in the FPS’ latest podcast

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October’s Federation of Piling specialists (FPS) podcast, sponsored by Central Piling, features the highly successful comedian, presenter, author and prominent mental health speaker, Ruby Wax and James Rudoni, Managing Director of Mates in Mind (MiM), the leading UK charity that is changing the conversation around mental health in the workplace.

This special edition podcast explores why construction has such a mental health problem, how to manage fear, as well as what we can all do to help others

Hosting the podcast, FPS Chair Steve Hadley kicked off the discussions exploring first, how Ruby became involved in the issue of mental health. Ruby, in her own comedic style speaks about how she had her own mental health issues but like so many of us, kept them quiet through fear of being stigmatised or even, as was Ruby’s case, being fired. From Comic Relief using her picture across the tube stations to highlight mental illness prevalence, Ruby decided to confront the issue head-on through her stage performances. Her style brought humour to the issue and helped mainstream the issues. Discussing frankly, but with plenty of humour, Ruby talks about her own personal issues, how it led to a Master degree from Oxford. And how her studies concluded with a show built around mental health.

The “derogatory wrap” to mental health is discussed and why it exists, before moving on to how and why it impacts the construction disproportionality to many other industries. Ruby also expresses her thoughts on how mental health will be perhaps the next pandemic and if we will be ready to tackle it? How COVID has opened new ways we can support each other and how it is important we maintain this post-COVID is also discussed.

The intrinsic issues of the construction sector – machismo, poor diet, lack of rest – are discussed and how they are not helping the issues, but worryingly, whilst the industry is moving forward it still has such a long way to go.

Topical at present, Ruby talks about how the “bad news” that we are being constantly hit with is not helping matters and may even be fuelling some of our mental issues. As she comments “we are all Velcro for the negative, but Teflon though for positive”. Ruby follows with how tools such as mindfulness can helps us all cope.

Ruby considers how letting go of ‘stuff’ rather than hanging on to things – negative – can be a real positive move in dealing with anxieties and other mental health issues, as well as the role of tools like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness in us all coping. She even poses – we go to the gym each day, why not the same for our mind? If there is a take home message, then its “get to know your own mind”. Ruby also speaks of the importance of listening and engaging with others and recognising the signs of mental illness in others.

Steve then brought James into the conversation and after James explains the origins of Mates in Mind, and why it was needed in the construction sector, Ruby then quizzed him on how it supports construction.

James then talks about how they often begin by defining mental health then on to how workers can self-manage or support colleagues. Getting rid of the stigma being a priority. The sense of community was reiterated in supporting each other through meatal health issues too.

How the charity is changing the culture in the construction sector to remove the embarrassment was detailed and Ruby adds how the word “Mental” may actually be more harmful than calling it what it is “a brain illness” – a condition just like any other physical illness.

The impact of COVID on mental health was also discussed, with James presenting some extremely disturbing figures on its impact. Once again, the importance of communities in our wellbeing is reinforced – that sense of purpose and engagement having such a positive impact on us all.

Steve closes the podcast thanking James and Ruby, but also reiterates how important the issue of mental health is to us all.

A must listen podcast, full of helpful advice and tips, and can be listened to here: