Mental Health is a real concern in our industry, with construction workers greatly under-reporting issues which have an impact on them. Depression and anxiety account for the majority of mental health issues. And one in four people will have this kind of issue at some point in their life. The causes are complex but factors outside work such as relationship problems, financial worries, bereavement, or caring for family members can all contribute. Increased workloads, tight deadlines, longer travelling times, lack of support and bullying at work can also lead to these conditions.
Despite issues being reported frequently in other sectors, the construction industry has the lowest self-reported cases. These statistics are truly shocking, given two construction workers commit suicide every day. That means working in our industry you are six times more likely to die from suicide than from a fall from a height. The “tough guy” perception makes asking for help, talking about feelings and mental health extremely difficult. So much so that mental health in the construction industry has been deemed ‘the silent epidemic’.
Men in particular just don’t talk about this stuff at all. They suffer in silence with these struggles, or become highly skilled at covering up how they are feeling. A fear of embarrassment or perhaps being told to “man up” stops them getting much needed help. At SCI we are actively encouraging our staff to speak about it openly. And to regularly check in with their mates and colleagues to see that they are OK. We wanted to create an environment where people feel safe to talk about this.
Luckily, signposting colleagues to some great support resources was really simple.
To kick off our campaign, we created a newsletter which outlines some of the issues (above) and details the signs that show someone may need help, such as:
Our newsletter also provides links to organizations such as Building Mental Health and Mates In Mind who can support staff when they need it most. The advice they provide is free and completely confidential. We’ve also suggested to our staff they could download the Construction Industry Helpline app to their phone. The app asks you to rate how you are feeling today and provides tasks, tools and contacts to help when things get tough. Confiding in a mate, partner, family member or GP are all excellent first steps too.
Discussing these issues with your GP may feel a little awkward at first, but they can offer practical help. This may be sickness certification, medication (if necessary), or many surgeries also now offer self referral for psychotherapy services. This therapy can be delivered in a number of ways – face to face, over the phone or via digital Mental Health programs such as Silver Cloud.
As a company we have two senior staff members who are the point contacts for any of our staff who may need this support. We are investing in awareness training and will introduce Mental Health Tool box talks, using slide decks from Building Mental Health.
There are also some informative videos which we have encouraged our colleagues to access
We want to encourage our staff to view seeking support for mental health issues and taking care of their mental well-being to be as routine as any other health check.
Maybe if we all viewed it as emphasizing the “Health” in”Mental Health”, we would talk about it more?