Working in the construction industry is one of the deadliest professions in the UK, but not because of the dangers of heavy machinery; the suicide rate for construction workers is more than three times the national average for men.
With males less likely to seek help and vocalise their struggles with a mental health condition, Iain Carpenter, director of service operations at exclusive Cat parts and equipment supplier, Finning UK & Ireland, discusses how to support your employees by creating an open and safe working environment.
Not everyone can work outdoors every single day, whatever the weather. Construction workers are renowned for their stoic, tough mentality, and the “no matter what” approach is a positive aspect for the industry. However, those same positive characteristics of being self-sufficient and not asking for help can dramatically increase the risk factors surrounding mental health. It is more important than ever that employees build a supportive working culture around mental health in construction.
Employers can be leaders in equipping their workers with the tools to deal with emotional wellbeing in the workplace, by empowering them to change their perceptions of mental health, and to eradicate the stigma on asking for help. When we think about mental illness, our mind rushes to the extremes of conditions; the sickest of the sick. This misconception of mental health issues fails to account for the majority of mild cases, experienced by one in four people in the UK every year.
With education comes empowerment. Employers and employees in the industry need to be able to recognise the early signs of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues within their colleagues, and know what support is available and how to access it. This can be done through various training initiatives, as well as creating a strong working relationship with mental health support services locally.
According to surveys, 64 per cent of construction workers want their employers to provide more support in this area, and the industry has started to listen. Building Mental Health is an initiative led by industry experts to provide a flexible and consistent framework to enable all parts of the construction sector to access mental health support, provide awareness and training, and support workers in the industry.
Mates in Mind
Finning UK & Ireland is partnered with Mates in Mind, a UK charity raising awareness, addressing the stigma of poor mental health and promoting positive mental wellbeing across the construction industry. Through this, Finning employees can gain clear information, access available support and receive guidance on mental health, with information and resources sourced from charities such as Mind, Samaritans and Mental Health First Aid England.
There is still a long way to go. But with some simple steps, companies can create the culture where employees feel cared about, and create the safe environment where people can feel comfortable enough to express situations they may be dealing with, and get the help they need, one conversation at a time.
Construction Industry Helpline 0345 605 1956 – Managed and funded by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity.
Mind, the mental health charity 0300 123 3393 – Provides advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
The Samaritans 116 123 – Confidential 24-hour support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.