You don’t have to fix it — you just have to be there

It’s just past dusk, and you’re driving home from a long day. On the side of the road, you see a car pulled over, hazard lights blinking. As you pass, you see a SMART sticker on the car’s windshield — it belongs to a union brother or sister. You pull over.

You don’t know how to fix their car. You may not even know them. But you stand there on the side of the road with them until the tow truck arrives.

Helping a friend, co-worker or loved one through a mental health or substance abuse crisis is much the same. You don’t have to fix them or solve their problems. You just have to be there.

Aldo Zambetti, SMOHIT administrator, made this comparison for a room of stewards and apprentices during a mental health awareness presentation at Local 36 in St. Louis last fall. It was a lightbulb moment for many listening — you don’t have to fix it; you just have to be there.

It’s a sentiment Zambetti presented at the SMART Leadership Conference and to different leaders in the industry over the last year. Chris Brunnert, business representative for Local 36, heard it loud and clear during the conference and asked Zambetti to come to St. Louis to present to stewards and apprentices.

“I thought his presentation was very motivating and interesting,” Brunnert said of the initial presentation during the conference. “With his presentation and history, I thought it would be great for our members to hear. As soon as I left the conference, I started the conversation.”

Brunnert had no idea this presentation would be the first for rank-and-file members. Until that night, mental health awareness had been geared toward those in leadership roles. But to Ray Reasons, Local 36 business manager, sharing the information with stewards and apprentices made the most sense.

“Are they going to talk to a business rep about their problems? Probably not. Are they going to talk to their shop steward who they have lunch with every day? More likely,” he said. “We get exposed to that information more than the rank-and-file does. I don’t think this is information we should keep close to the chest. We need to get this out there to see how positive addressing their issues can be, to talk about it and not bottle it up.”

During the presentation, Zambetti shared personal stories about his own mental health. Reasons and Brunnert said that openness resonated with the audience of journeypersons and apprentices the most.

“It gives them hope that they’re not the only one going through this. It gives them a lot of hope they can move forward with any kind of dream they have,” Brunnert said.

The response was instant. At the end of the event, Zambetti was approached by a handful of members who wanted to share. And the Helpline had a boost in calls from St. Louis that night and over the following days, according to Jeremy Holburn, the licensed counselor who manages the SMOHIT Helpline.

“People heard SMOHIT’s voice that night,” Zambetti added. “In this business, you don’t really know if you’re making a difference. That particular day, I knew what SMART and SMOHIT are doing with mental health awareness was making a difference.”

Standing next to a fellow member, waiting for the tow truck to arrive, is an act of support. Many times, people tell Zambetti they don’t know what to do to help, so they end up doing nothing.

“You just need to know how to stand next to them and wait for the tow truck,” he said. “That’s the goal — to make their lives easier. ‘All I have to do is stand next to them? I can do that,’ they say. But to do that, SMOHIT has to get in front of them to tell them this exact thing. That’s the value.”

If you’re interested in hosting a mental health awareness presentation at your local, use the help button on our website to contact us.

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