A CORK therapist has called for action to combat depression in construction workers, having been aware of the issue when he worked on building sites.
Ger O’Brien, who worked in construction for 40 years and now specialises in alternative therapies for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, has been offering mental-health presentations to companies.
Mr O’Brien felt compelled to do so after a number of his past colleagues took their own lives.
Mr O’Brien said there was need for awareness of the difficulties facing construction workers, many of whom are struggling to support families during the third Covid-19 lockdown. The number of construction workers receiving PUP rose from 23,080 to 32,151 last month, prompting fresh concern for workers in the sector.
The Ballyphehane-based therapist has always been passionate about the issue.
“I’ve been on sites where there has been a horrendous atmosphere, as a result of the heartbreak that comes with a colleague’s suicide,” Mr O’Brien said.
“When you suppress emotions like that, they can become toxic. That’s why they can be so dangerous for our mental health. If people want to speak, then they should be encouraged.”
“There are talks given relating to mental health for Construction Safety Week, in October, but I would argue that this isn’t enough,” Mr O’Brien said. “They need to be given monthly, or even quarterly, to help those who are struggling.”
Mr O’Brien said mental-health issues are common in the industry. “One man approached me after a talk and said that he was glad to have heard me speak, because he wasn’t going to come in that day,” he said.
“When he said he hadn’t planned on coming to work, I knew exactly what he meant. He was welling up when he told me that he was being bullied at work,” Mr O’Brien said.
“He came to me for a session and since dealing with the problem, his life is transformed. He is now in a better job, with better pay.”
Mr O’Brien said that there is hope for people in the clutches of depression.
“My message to them would be to never give up,” Mr O’Brien said. “Everything in life is an experience. What you take from that experience is most important.
"The storm doesn’t last for ever.”
Ger O’Brien is well-known on social media and often gives motivational talks through his Instagram page, @gerobriencork.