The Far-Reaching Effects of Mental Health

The below article has been sent into us by one of our members. It discusses the writers personal experiences dealing with a colleague who was struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Whilst carrying out administrative tasks on a sunny July morning in 2020, I received a phone call from one of the operations supervisors informing me, one of the younger port operatives was not himself, feeling unwell, depressed and emotional. I asked the supervisor if he could bring the operative to the safety and training centre to see me?

The operative walked into the building, and I guided him to a quiet meeting room, I could see he was very nervous and upset. When the door was closed the individual immediately broke down, crying and telling me he did not want to be here anymore.

Shocked to see a grown (young) man cry in front of me I remembered from a previous employment many years ago, the mental health training I had undertaken. Three key elements came to mind quickly, listen, reassure and repeat back, giving the individual the reassurance, you have listened to what he has said.

During the conversation, the individual informed me, the night before his break down in work, he had drunk eight cans of strong lager and was on the Clifton Suspension Bridge and contemplated taking his own life. He went onto say, his girlfriend had recently finished with him, his mum was giving him a tough time at home (he lived at home with his mum and her partner), he was having issues with time keeping in work and was missing meeting up with his friends. At the time, the country was in lock down due to the Covid restrictions implemented, one of his coping mechanisms was meeting up with his friends and having a good old vent.

I asked if he minded me calling the General Manager (GM) to come and support me during our conversation. He was more than happy; another pair of ears was something at the time he needed.

The GM and I sat down and went through the situation, again, offering support, reassurance, advice and talking about external support options which would be available through our onsite occupational health practitioners. After about ninety minutes, there was a marked difference in the individuals state and demeanour, he was now happy, laughing and joking about his current situation, also apologising for taking up our time. A complete turn around really, from having suicidal thoughts ninety minutes ago, to informing us he was going to seek help and, in his words, ‘sort himself out’.

The GM offered to take the individual home and take the opportunity to speak with his mum. His mum mentioned she had encouraged him to see his GP weeks prior. I’m pleased to say the individual did take up the offer of support and after having a few weeks away from the workplace returned to work with a new outlook on life. I kept in regular contact via text messaging to check on his wellbeing whilst he was off. On his return to work, the individual went out of his way to come and speak with the GM and myself, thanking us for being there and listening.

At the time of the incident, I was shocked, and could not stop thinking of what could have happened to the individual. Whilst reflecting at the time, I continued to question the actions I took, and advice I gave, was it the right thing to do, was the information given accurate and timely, what happens if he takes no notice? For days, even weeks after, the same questions. The anxious feelings finally subsided when the individual returned to work and I could see there was a physical improvement, and the mental health support was having an effect. The mental health training I undertook some ten years or so previous to this incident stood me in good stead (I would recommend all supervisors, managers and upwards attend something similar), but who was checking up on me?