Mental Health Panel at GlassBuild: How Can We Save Lives?

The National Glass Association hosted a panel entitled “Mental Health and Suicide Prevention” during GlassBuild America 2022 to spark an industry conversation about mental health and suicide prevention. Panelist John Hewitt, “We Mind and Kelly Matters;” steve dillon, VEKA North America; Dustin Anderson, The Alone Effect; and Mai Tran from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention All highlighted the importance of breaking the stigma around suicide and mental health. A good first and ongoing step is conversations.

Emily Thompson, Editor of Glass Magazine and Window + Door Magazine, moderated the panel. “How do we save lives?” she asked. “We’re doing this right now,” says Tran. “To have a conversation. Being compassionate and caring about how people are doing. And talk about it.”

Hewitt agrees. “People don’t know how to approach suicide, how to talk about it, and they avoid it.” His organization and the Loneliest Road project work to give people a platform to talk about their experiences.

“When people are struggling with their mental health, they are on the loneliest path,” he says. “There are stretches of road where you struggle more and need people. You don’t have to fight alone.” Hewitt organizes a Route 50 bike ride through Nevada (and elsewhere internationally). The highway is known as the loneliest road in America.

Veka is a sponsor and contributor to Hewitt’s organization. Dillon shared the goal of 52,000 combined miles collected for the charity ride. “That’s two miles around the globe… A metaphor that it’s okay to ask someone twice if they’re okay.”

Anderson also spoke about the importance of sharing stories and being open to an ongoing conversation about mental health awareness. In the construction industry in particular, Anderson sees two problems: people who don’t get the meaning and people who act too hard to want to talk about it. “By telling our stories and enabling others to do the same, we make a difference… You don’t have to understand what someone is going through to know they are going through it. Just listen. But it’s a conversation that needs to happen as often as possible.”

For employers and managers in the industry, Dillon shared that creating an environment open to these conversations is critical. “It starts at the top and moves down, passed from manager to manager. Everyone learns to recognize signs, to approach employees. Do not give up. Keep opening up the conversation.”

The AFSP provides support to businesses, including Veka, with educational programs and resources.

Tran recommends employee support programs that address the importance of mental health awareness during onboarding and review. “Have real conversations. Someone who shows they care and listen saves lives.”

Hewitt says, “Employers need to be a lot bolder and do a lot more to address these issues head-on.” He suggests training yourself and employees to look for warning signs. “Take care of each other.”

Tran says these signs include specific conversations about suicide or harm, worrisome behaviors, or mood swings.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to saving lives,” says Tran. “But talking and asking and caring has a chance of saving a life.”

Mental health and suicide prevention

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