Monthly Archives: October 2023

Episode Six of the HICS and National Home Improvement Council new mental health and wellbeing podcast series now available

Accessing debt support and achieving financial health

In the final instalment of our mental health podcast series, we talk to Greg Jenkinson, Debt Advisor from StepChange, one of the best UK impartial and free Debt advisory services and Michael McGougan, HICS Head of Membership. This podcast discusses ways in which to take control of your financial position, minimise your financial stress and understand what support is available. We also discuss the options around debt solutions and how HICS support their members’ financial health.

What is financial health?

We all need to be able to maintain our day-to-day budgets. Good financial health is being able to pay bills on time and have some left for personal use. Poor financial health is where you become reliant upon credit, not able to pay those important bills and find that you are juggling too much. Contributing factors will have a knock on effect with your financial health. You could unexpectedly be out of work for reasons outside your control or have a physical injury and those days/weeks off could have a huge effect on cash flow.

Recognising your situation and taking control 

There is a misconception about debt that if you have it, you have failed. This is simply not true. It is so easy to take the approach of “I will deal with that another day”. The further down the line we push it, the further the worry increases.  A poor financial situation is not a reflection on the person themselves. Two thirds of people who find themselves in a poor situation have actually not been foolish with money. There is no shame in asking for help and once you start to address the issue, of which is daunting to many, the easier the steps become moving forward. One step could be as small as checking your bank statement each week and seeing where you could be more comfortable in making some little changes.

What support is out there?

StepChange offers free impartial debt advice on a personal and business level. They will listen and understand and will be able to advise on the best course of action dependant on your financial health. They are experts with many years of experience and will assist with arranging payment plans for loans and credit cards, or breathing space with organisations.

If you are a member of HICS, you have many avenues to take to get the help and support you need. They have dedicated account managers who will be able to offer you advice and guidance on which ever avenue that best suits your situation: help with policies and procedures, getting a good accountant, or exploring avenues like income protection. They can even offer you guidance on how to do a simple excel spreadsheet to help you take control.

Take the free help. You will wish you had done it sooner!

StepChange has a free, confidential online helpline that is available 24hours a day 365 days a year

You can also speak to one of their advisors on 02800 138 1111 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 2pm

The HICS/NHIC mental health podcasts are running into October and are available here:

Episode Five of the HICS and National Home Improvement Council new mental health and wellbeing podcast series now available

Improving Wellbeing and Mental Health

This episode of our mental health podcast series is one that is particularly relevant to all of us, regardless of where we work or what we do. Dr Rachael Cooper and Cathy O’Hara have many years of experience in working with people with mental health issues, and they bring their vast knowledge to this broadcast.

Dr Cooper has been a GP in Newcastle for 22 years and a significant amount of her work involves dealing with patients with mental health challenges. Cathy started her career in HR for a construction firm and has worked for HICS for many years.

Identifying mental health problems

When patients approach Dr Cooper with mental health issues, they often use the word ‘stress’, where in reality what people are suffering from is anxiety or depression. Symptoms may include mild worrying to full-blown panic attacks, catastrophising that something bad will happen, an inability to get out of bed, lack of motivation, drinking too much and/or taking drugs, feeling restless and unsatisfied, and not sleeping properly. Dr Cooper also speaks about a little-known condition called anhedonia, which is the inability to enjoy yourself or find pleasure in anything. This is a recognised symptom of mental health conditions like depression and can manifest in feeling numb, flat, and not being interested in anything. All these symptoms indicate that help is needed, and it is important to acknowledge that suffering is not a weakness, but a form of illness that needs to be treated.

Building resilience and self-care

Resilience is the ability to cope with situations and challenges, and the better our physical and mental fitness, the better our resilience and the more we get out of life.

Looking after physical health is as important as taking care of our mental health and the connection between mind and body should not be underestimated. Exercise and being outdoors are both shown to have a positive impact on mood. Eating the right food, having hobbies, surrounding ourselves with positive people and finding support systems all go hand in hand in helping to boost our mental health. Developing a growth mindset and continuing to learn and develop are all positive habits to embrace.

To help with self-care, social media breaks, practising gratitude, listening to inspirational podcasts, and using Apps are all tools that provide support. We are more likely now to be working in isolation so finding time to socialise with positive friends is important. Equally, bad habits need to broken: drinking, drugs and bad eating habits and behaviours all contribute to a negative state of mind.

Organisations that can help

Cathy and Dr Cooper highlight three organisations which have expertise in the area of mental health treatment, whether that is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and talking therapies for anxiety or counselling. A GP can also provide access to services and may prescribe medication in more serious cases.

Lighthouse provides support exclusively for workers in the construction industry. Mates in Mind is a charity which raises awareness and aims to destigmatise the conversation around mental health, and Band of Builders specifically helps tradespeople in need. often it is men who find it most difficult to talk if they are struggling with their mental health. As the construction industry is a predominantly male industry, this is a vital organisation.

Mates in Mind has a free, confidential 24/7 hotline called Be A Mate, which is available to anyone in our industry. Just text HARDHAT free on 85258 and a trained volunteer will be available to help, whatever the issue. This is not just open to HICS members, but to anyone in the industry who feels they would benefit from expert, confidential support.

This podcast emphasises the fact that there is no reason to suffer in silence and that help is available. If you need support, it is not sign of weakness and you are not alone.

The HICS/NHIC mental health podcasts are running into October and are available here: