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  • Writer's pictureTeam Toolbot

Suicide and the Sole Trader: Are You Feeling the Strain?

Do you ever wake in the night with a pounding heart, terrified of how you are going to pay your bills, worried that not enough work is coming in, or maybe facing the sadness and loneliness of a relationship that’s falling apart?

Whatever it is, life’s problems can sometimes feel so consuming as to be insurmountable.

Every four minutes, someone in the UK attempts suicide. Once an hour, one of those attempts is successful.

This is a topic close to my heart, because during the pandemic, an old friend of mine hung himself, leaving behind a young daughter and a distraught family.

I’ve been on the edge of suicide myself during difficult times in my life, and for me, it was the loneliness of not sharing my problems or feeling like I had the support that caused me the most pain and separation.

During one difficult year, I’d go to bed willing my heart to stop beating in the night, so I didn’t have to wake up to another day in my life.

All I can say is that it was a slow process until things improved and I was glad I didn’t take my life, but the pain while you’re in the depths of darkness can be overwhelming enough to create thoughts of suicide.

The sad thing is, suicide has permanent consequences, but our problems are usually temporary and will eventually pass.

What causes suicidal thoughts

If you are suffering from anxiety, stress, or depression - whether this stems from work, ill health, being out of work, relationship problems, financial struggles, or something else that’s consuming you - you are more at risk of suicide.

This can evolve into hopelessness or feeling unworthy, and thoughts of suicide can creep in when it feels like the only way out of the situation.

Mental health has often been considered a taboo subject, especially for men. Culturally, we expect men to put up and shut up because men who show feelings have been branded as weak, or not real men.

However, the courage to face feelings and talk about them makes us stronger and leaning on someone for support – whether a friend, family member, colleague, or stranger – is crucial for our health and quality of life.

Right now there’s a lot of noise from health experts about this because research shows that a long and healthy life is dependent more on a supportive social group than diet, exercise, or anything else!

Friends, it appears, are essential to our wellbeing.

The aftermath of suicide

The aftermath of suicide is usually relatives and friends who, if they had known, would have done everything in their power to help you.

Close family and friends may never recover from the loss of a loved one from suicide.

Knowing that they could have helped you if you had let them, that help is out there so it was never hopeless, however bad it may have felt at the time, leaves a wound that will never heal.

If you don’t share what’s going on inside, it can lead to loneliness and down a bleak route.

Construction workers and builders are at a higher risk of suicide

According to the Electrical Industries Charity, construction workers are three times more likely to commit suicide, which is 1.6% higher than the national average.

On top of that, three-quarters of deaths from suicide are by men.

Workers in the building and construction industry endure long hours with challenging workloads and because projects are generally short-term, they can find themselves out of work.

Inconsistent income can be difficult if your family depends on your earnings.

Sole traders face similar conditions, with long hours, job stress, and feast-or-famine cash flow that creates worry and anxiety.

Long working hours can impact family time and the ability to fully unwind, and many trades believe they’re always on call for customers with emergencies.

Even superheroes need a day off and I understand you want to be there for your customers.

But it’s like being on a plane where you’re firmly told to put your oxygen mask on first – look after yourself if you want to look after others.

How to relieve the pressure of a busy job

Don’t underestimate that a small change can quickly have a huge impact.

If you’re finding work encroaches on your downtime, you have control to set boundaries.

I have set my phone to Do Not Disturb mode between 8 pm and 6 am. Sometimes it needs to go back on, but in general, this boundary works for me, and I don’t need to think about it because the phone does this automatically.

Alternatively, leave your phone in the drawer or somewhere out of the room when having meals, or spending time with your family.

It’s crucial to have head space regularly and it’s up to us to set those boundaries to protect our time.

If you’re struggling to consider this a viable option, find out if having your phone ring or beep in the evenings creates stress on your family.

Perhaps you can switch it off for them even if you can’t do it for yourself: how can they relax and unwind if you bring your stress into the home?

Balancing jobs to reduce your stress

When jobs are coming in, there's a tendency to say yes to everything, because as self-employed people, we don’t know when the phone might go quiet.

The feast-or-famine swing of the economy can leave you stressed and overworked with more jobs to juggle than you can physically manage or without work and worrying when the money will start coming in again.

Self-employment should give you the freedom to choose the jobs you want, during the hours that fit your life, but we all know that rarely happens.

Or at least we don’t set enough boundaries to pace ourselves more.

If you’re overworked and can’t say no to more jobs, at least schedule yourself some downtime and be mindful of your stress levels.

A problem shared

Don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends, or workmates for support. Ever.

We often worry that someone we confide in will laugh, or make fun of us for sharing, or we’ll be harshly judged for feeling low.

It’s important to remember that how someone else responds is a reflection of them, not you.

If you find it a struggle to open up, a good way to start is by writing things down. Putting our problems on paper helps to externalise them and gives us some space within our endlessly busy minds.

But most of the time when you open up to someone, you soon find they have felt the same way as you at some point in their life.

Useful contacts

Andy’s Man Club is a great place to start if you need help. This wonderful charity, with over 190 meetups across the UK, offers Monday meetings for men to provide a safe place to talk.

The Electrical Industries Charity provides various support services to those who work or have worked, in the electrical industry. As well as offering out-of-hours crisis support, help is available to families, employees, and apprentices.

Mental health charity Mind has a wealth of information about mental wellbeing and suicide. They offer emergency and crisis help, along with local support groups.


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