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Construction site lockers containing several hard hats belonging to tradespeople

Why so many tradespeople take their own lives

When you think about why so many tradespeople take their own lives (in the UK there are 13x more suicides than on-site accidents), you probably think a big part of it is the long hours people work – and the fatigue that goes with that.


But that’s not quite right.


In fact, data shows we don’t actually work more than we used to. 100 years ago we’d clock up around 65 hours a week. These days we do more like 40.

Line graph showing weekly working hours from 1870 to 2000 in Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and France

Yet “burnout” is something so many people can relate to right now.


So what’s really going on?


It’s more to do with the role work plays in our life. We put a lot more importance on it than we used to. The team at Spill talk about it in terms of our “psychological relationship” with work. We expect so much.


(As an aside, there’s something similar going on in our modern romantic relationships. Esther Perel points out how we used to only look to our partners for a few things. Today, we rely on them for ​​compassion, reassurance, sexual excitement, financial partnership, problem-solving, spontaneity, therapy, laughter, etc etc. Expectations have never been so high!).


Work counts for a lot these days but there’s still so much we’ve yet to discover about its impact – good and bad – on our mental wellbeing.


Thankfully there are amazing people and organisations (Spill, Lighthouse Charity, On The Tools, to name a few) doing important work to help us help each other and thrive in our jobs.


Let's celebrate, encourage and promote them.


And because we can’t resist ending with a salient quote (sorry) and finding a way to include something from one of our favourite thinkers, here’s the late, great Maya Angelou to put it in perspective:


“Nothing works unless you do.”

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