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Mental Health Awareness Month shines spotlight on health and wellness in construction

As many as one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression, or substance use, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 has intensified the impact of the well-being of many, with SADAG reporting that they have received more calls since the start of lockdown from people feeling anxious, lonely, worried, and depressed. This is due to several factors which include the financial strain the pandemic has had; the fear of job security and conflicting home and work demands.

Speaking in light of Mental Health Awareness Month in October, Deon Bester, OHS Manager at the Master Builders’ Association Western Cape (MBAWC) says that, in the construction industry, a lot of emphasis is placed on health and safety on-site.  However, he points out, it is important to note that mental health is just as important – perhaps even more so.

As such, he says that it is vital for those in construction to not only look after themselves on-site, but also to look after their own mental wellness. “This can be done by placing a focus on how diet, psychology and sleep interact with our mental health and how an approach which addresses all three areas simultaneously has the best chance of putting one on a trajectory to optimising health and wellness and thereby improving one’s performance,“ says Bester.

It is for this reason that the MBAWC, in collaboration with Shelly Meltzer & Associates, Sleep Science at the University of Cape Town, and Performing Mind at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) will be hosting a free health and wellness webinar on 28 October 2020. “The session will cover these key topics to assist those in the industry to improve their health and wellness,” says Bester.

The below topics will be covered in-depth to bolster mental health and well-being in the construction industry:

Diet: According to registered dietitian, author, teacher, researcher and consultant dietitian, Shelly Meltzer, if you ask different people about best dietary practices, you are bound to get a range of responses. Diets also seem to come and go, along with food fashion.

Our food environments and access to food have also changed so much in recent months, she says. “Navigating this terrain and making the right choices can be challenging. As such, it is important to look at effective, sensible and sustainable dietary strategies that you can employ for optimal health, well-being and performance.”

Psychology: “It is often said that the mind is the key to performance. No matter how skilled, experienced or knowledgeable one is, our state of mind plays a crucial role in determining the extent to which these resources are accessed on any particular day,” says Clinton Gahwiler, Lead Psychologist for Sports Performance and the Performing Mind programme at the SSISA. “It is for this reason that psychology in health, well-being and performance is key, whilst being aware of common early warning signs to look out for and how to manage this.”

Sleep: This is an under-explored area in terms of health and well-being, explains Dr Dale Rae, Senior Researcher in the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine within the Department of Human Biology, at the University of Cape Town. “In fact, it is probably one of the “easiest to abuse” aspects of our lifestyle. And yet, good sleep enables us to be healthy, energised, productive, and not to mention the role it has in protecting our long-term health,” says Dr Rae.

In this webinar, she will discuss why we sleep and its importance for health (physical and mental) and work-related productivity; what healthy sleep entails; and practical tips for managing and optimising sleep.

“With the current state of the world, people are suffering more and more from anxiety and stress, and while things are sometimes beyond our control, in certain instances, we have the opportunity to aid ourselves with much-needed coping mechanisms. Seminars such as these are vital in improving our health and well-being,” concludes Bester.

This free webinar, which has been sponsored by MBA Western Cape, will take place from 11:00 am, for all those interested. For more information and to register please click here.

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