Trigger Warning: This article contains mention of suicide.
Men in the UK are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. However, in construction – a male-dominated industry– men are three times more likely to die by suicide than the national average for men.
A 2021 survey by Mates In Mind reported that two people working in construction die every day in the UK, over 700 people per year. Whilst a 2019 report from The Chartered Institute of Building reported that48% have taken time off due to unmanageable stress, 91% have felt overwhelmed and 26% have had suicidal thoughts.
If you think those statistics are sobering you’d be right, suicide now kills more construction workers every year but why?
Up to 56% of construction professionals work for organisations with NO policies for mental health in the workplace meanwhile preliminary findings from 300 respondents suggested that almost a third were living with elevated levels of anxiety due to intense workloads, poor work-life balance and financial problems in a mainly male workforce who are reluctant to talk about mental health.
So, how can organisations trigger change?
Recognise the problem
The stats don’t lie, if you’re running a business or managing a team in the construction industry, it’s highly likely someone you work with is suffering from poor mental health. Recognising this is key to putting support in place and in identifying the early warning signs of those who need help most
Provide access to resources
No one is asking you to become an expert in mental health, but you can provide information about resources and helplines and making these resources accessible is absolutely crucial. It is unlikely you’ll be approached for support but rather it is your responsibility to ensure that those channels of support are visible and talked about regularly by people of influence to help remove stigma.
Learn and Apply
There is plenty of training available on the subjects of mental health and stress in the workplace and these will be critical to understanding the signs and putting in place successful support structures and policies for managing mental health effectively. Provide managers and leaders with training which enables the development of empathy skills and how to refer employees for further help if needed.
Make A Start
Although this is the last point, it’s also a good place to finish. Addressing mental health in construction must happen but it will require significant cultural change which won’t happen overnight, as an employer wanting to make a change this may feel like a huge mountain to climb but in taking the first step toward supporting mental health in the industry you are already contributing to the change which is so badly needed.
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