The perfect weapon: auto-repair function, versatile, resourceful, lethal and I wear it every day. It is my body. The only tool that allowed life to survive and evolve for so many years (someone else paid for that, but this is not for today story). Only one single point of failure, the control center, the brain (some of my female friends would probably say the soul, maybe rightly). If you look at the body’s shape of a martial’s art master or a special corp soldier, they look different from the average overweight middle age man, but the potential is the same, the difference is the mindset.

Where is the strength, in the body or in the mind? You are probably asking yourself where i am going at this point, I am about to tell you. Never heard of the phrase “break the spirit not their body to subjugate the enemies”?

I will jump five years and then a week back in time from now, because two events have triggered this article. Five years ago i have lost my best friend that took his life few hours after I left his apartment. Absolutely nothing told me something was wrong, we book an holiday that evening, we were having fun. This is the person calling me in the middle of the night to tell me he met a girl or just to wake me up and piss me off. We shared so much, I thought all, but eventually there was something he kept for himself. A week ago a colleague posted an article on Yammer about mental health, for some reason i shared my story and my pain, as answer I received more stories from other people experiencing pain. Some sort of outing.
I did start to think about this, the mental health, the pain the people experience every day and how this affect their life and performance. I do not wait for others to take actions, usually i move till someone tell me this is not the right way and correct me or they join me for the battle, but at the end of the day they have to react and do something about it.
In the industry we are all focused on safety, really a lot has been done with great achievements and the standardization following the globalization his helping all countries to speed up this process. However, there are still accident, still casualties. I met many HSE people and they all agree the numbers are falling down, however there is a plateau hard to break, is the line drawn on the graph by accident caused by people (i will not discuss here the reasons). We have procedures in place, we have training in place, we have medicals to ensure the people are physically fit for the job. The most of you at this stage should be able to see where I am going.
Is this person, the employee, mentally fit to perform this task?
You may be the Supervisor assigning a job and the man you designated to climb the power tower to perform maintenance on a live 400.000 volts structure, discovered his son is sick and he is waiting for the medical report to understand if those small white spots on the X-Ray are cancer. Would you still send him up there? What do you think he is thinking about while climbing the tower?

Logic would say that the man should call for sick leave and stay home. This is logic, not life, that man is maybe living check to check and he cannot afford to loss a day of wage. How many of us have been there? I am sure all of us on a certain point on life moved off bed to go to work even if all your body and mind were telling you not to. But we had to. I did.

Many will say a professional leave home his life’s problems and perform at work independently. This may have a sense, if you consider work not being part of your life. Work is my part of my life, the biggest part actually. I strongly believe a professional should say, please replace me today, because i am not mentally fit to safely contribute to the job (i am sure i will be crucified for this, please no offence in the comments, because my 12 yo girl reads my posts). I am not sure the industry, any industry is structured today to manage effectively an instance where an employee calls mentally sick. This is why i feel people is not keen to talk about this issue at work. No one wants to be seen as the weirdo, the creep (unless you are the Radiohead). I am not really sure someone on the line of depression will ever approach HR telling “ I am falling in pieces”. If so, what HR reaction should be? What the company policy says about that, if any policy is in place? Where the responsibility end, what if someone tells HR he cannot reach the end of the month and if keep going like that he will jump off the tower to get the insurance check for his family? What a company should do about that?
I have not investigated about it, but i started the Hard Talk initiative. I am the first of the weirdos, let me know how you feel. Talking about a problem is the first step to solve it.
It has not to be a world wide issue to be relevant to the discussion, stress start from small things. A new employee that want to impress the team and his boss is on a stress situation, a girl that would like to apply for a position, but all the colleagues doing that job are male, she is on stress. How many examples, the guy that broke his car down with no money to fix it suffer the stress to wake up two hours in advance to take a train. All this people are not giving 100% of their potential at work, some just 50%, someone is about to have an accident. Life is not easy, it is a continuous challenge, we cannot control the challenges, but we have control over the way we react to them. I am not intimidated stating that no one is immune by stress, every single one of use go to work with something on the back of their mind.
The best way to resolve a problem is to acknowledge a problem exist. I am not qualified to find a solution, but i am empowered to help and support others to rise awareness of their problems (well, of mine too). I ask all of you to advocate the Hard Talk initiative and start it in your organization, talk about it, make it a daily task, a priority. There are plenty of professionals out there that can really help, what we have to do is to start a process where everybody will take ownership and support others to contact professionals without shame or prejudice.

Please share this, not for me to collect likes, but to help the child in myself that feels guilty having failed to sense his best friend’s pain. Even if only one out there can improve another human being existence out of this, then i fell better.
HSE Health Safety and Environment. We reached the plateau in safety, where are we in Environment and Health? Where is the Plateau?
An explosion start from the fuse, be the match the ignite the fuse (rephrased from “Fight Song” from Rachel Platten). By the way great song and perfect for this subject (listen here).