This Mental Health Awareness week, we’re opening up the conversation on mental health in the construction industry by sharing the story of one of our members, Nik Nelberg.

Like many of us, Nik didn’t expect to be affected by mental health issues. But when a member of his team suffered a breakdown, it brought home the importance of having a support framework at work. This also prompted Nik to seek support for his own mental health from our national charity partner The Lighthouse Club, who offer free and confidential help to construction workers and their families affected by mental health issues. If you or someone you know is struggling, the Construction Industry Helpline is always available 24/7 on 0345 609 1956.

Lighthouse Club Construction industry helpline logo

Here, Nik shares his story in his own words.

A steep learning curve

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FMB Member Nik Nelberg

My name is Nik and I run a building company in London. We started being made aware of mental health through the FMB events and newsletters, specifically how these issues are affecting the construction industry and how we're one of the worst hit industries for suicides and depression. At this time I didn't think of myself as having any issues.

I thought I’m alright jack.

It wasn't until someone I work with didn't turn up to work around Christmas time and I found out later that he had tried to take his own life and was now in hospital. After hearing the news I really sat up and began trying to understand mental health in more depth. Again, I was only thinking of him and how we had missed the signs, he would always say, “I’m alright” or, “I had an alright weekend” but didn’t really go into too much detail.

To begin with all the mental health stuff was quite overwhelming. We had enough to deal with day-to-day, and another huge report on my pile was all I needed. But little by little I gained a better understanding.

During this time my business partner would sometimes say, “Mental health should start at home”. But then we didn’t know how to engage or understand our own mental health. We just stressed about the issues we were having within our business and how anxious and worried we had become because of it.

Getting support from The Lighthouse Club

I thought I should take my own advice and so I contacted The Lighthouse Club, which is a construction industry charity that specialises in mental health. They helped me with six therapy sessions which have changed my life and added the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. My mental state is now more a state of being and not an anxious mess.

My therapist from The Lighthouse Club was fantastic. She first of all helped me understand the grieving process and explained that it wasn't just when someone passed away that a person grieves but also when you lose something - like your family setup, relationship, home or even a business. Understanding this immediately helped me to be able to function on a day-to-day basis which was the start to my next level of understanding of mental health.

Again, my therapist pointed me in the direction of cognitive distortion, this is where your mind thinks about something and then it distorts it and turns it into stress by thinking about all the things that could go wrong, even catastrophising at times. She gave me a very simple form to check if ever I was showing these signs when something daunting came up in life, and it's been invaluable because it's changed my stress levels immensely. Asking yourself - what’s the worst that could happen really? This helped to put things into perspective.

When I took away all this stress I’d created in my head, the space for processing other things and more creative bits was huge! My days were so much clearer because I’m not full of other stress and I could focus on life and work so much easier.

Finding balance

At the moment I’m focusing more on being myself and enjoying being with my kids more. I'm actually focusing on them when I am with them, rather than stressing about my work. I’m more present and in the moment and I’m living for the now. It's quite amazing what a different place I am in. That has been due to a lot of help and understanding from myself and others. Understanding we are in a tough industry with all the issues that come with being self-employed and the complexity of delivering a building project and dealing with all the different parties involved. I now give myself a break and am happier and healthier for it. I am even better at making decisions and my business has improved also.

If I can leave you with one final point it will be that there is help out there, and it does make a difference when you take that first step in getting better.


Get access to help

The Lighthouse Club’s Construction Industry Helpline is open 24/7 and can offer free and confidential support, including advice on welfare and mental wellbeing. They also offer support on tax, legal and debt matters, as well as emergency financial aid to construction families in crisis.

You can call them on 0345 609 1956 or download the free Construction Industry Helpline app to access self-help from your phone.

Lighthouse Club Construction industry helpline logo

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