Although physical health and safety is already taken very seriously in the construction sector, mental health in construction workers is often overlooked...
Unfortunately, it has recently come to light in studies that the number of reported mental health issues in construction workers is extremely worrying, with one in four workers having considered suicide (research conducted by Construction News). In the same study it was also revealed that 30% of these respondents did not tell their employer that the reason they were absent was due to their mental health.
But why construction? It's widely known that the industry is challenging with long hours and potentially working away from home, but the previous statistics could be influenced by factors such as Brexit, the collapse of Carillion and even the Grenfell Tower disaster. Following on from Brexit it has been suggested that the UK construction industry could lose 8% of the workforce once we leave the EU which could jeopardise a predicted £500bn project pipeline!
The previous statistics are concerning especially when suicide is killing more construction workers than falls from height; therefore it is important to educate your friends and colleagues and look for any signs of poor mental health. Some symptoms of mental health problems include: decreased productivity, lack of self confidence, isolation and increased feelings of being overwhelmed. If you are concerned about a friend or colleague, maybe suggest talking or taking your break together to give them a chance to chat.
Overall, the industry has started to take steps in the right direction to reduce the stigma on mental health and to improve support. For example, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has committed £500,000 funding to train construction workers to be mental health first aiders; they are aiming to have a minimum of 2,500 on-site mental health first aiders by 2020. However it is estimated that an additional 40,000 workers would need to be trained in order for there to be an adequate level of cover for the construction sector. Other companies are following and are also providing training especially to those in managerial positions.
It has been highlighted that problems do need to be addressed but a slow positive change has begun and in years to come, services and facilities for mental health and wellbeing should improve; especially within construction.
If you feel you are having issues with your mental wellbeing, or you know someone who is, please get support and speak to a friend, colleague or contact one of the below:
Construction Industry Helpline: 0345 605 1956 (helpline funded by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity)
Mind, Mental Health Charity: 0300 123 3393 (advice and support for anyone with mental health problems)
The Samaritans: 116 123 (confidential 24 hour helpline for anyone experiencing distress, despair and suicidal thoughts)
James Burrell Builders Merchants take mental health and wellbeing seriously and to date we have two mental health first aiders in the company, Alyson Hunter and Paul Butler. We also have support through Lifeworks, which is an employee benefit James Burrell is currently providing.
Lifeworks are an employee assistance program which the company has introduced to assist employees with their day to day needs. This can be anything from looking for financial advice on a mortgage, renting a home or getting a loan for a new car to help to find a child minder or help with an elderly relative as well as assistance and advice on our own health and wellbeing including help with mental health, general questions or advice on diet and exercise.