The Mental Health in Construction Crisis: Why We Need to Take Action

In the construction industry, mental health simply isn’t talked about enough, which has resulted in the entire industry facing a crisis. In this post, we take a look at just how serious this crisis is, what you can do to help and what we’re doing to take action against it.

Whilst our society has already made significant leaps forward by raising awareness for and improving our attitudes towards mental ill-health, unfortunately changing everyone’s minds simply won’t happen overnight. While some of these leaps forward have been in the workplace, engagement with mental health is far lower than it should be in some industries, and this is the case with construction.

Mental illnesses like anxiety, stress and depression have become a very serious problem for the construction industry as a whole, as statistics have proven that the likelihood of workers taking sickness leave due to mental health issues is far higher than that of physical injuries like torn muscles and broken bones. The worrying statistics have been released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The severity of the crisis

The statistics released by the ONS have indicated that males working in construction are the most at risk of committing suicide in the United Kingdom. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 1,400 men in the industry took their own lives. This puts the suicide rate within construction at quadruple the national average for men. Since then, the matter has unfortunately worsened with more than one suicide occurring per day, as 450 suicides of men working in the industry were reported in 2016.

In addition to the alarming suicide rate statistics, the economical ramifications have also become evident from the same research. According to the ONS, mental illness causes significant financial disruption for businesses, as they have estimated that around 15 million days of sick leave were taken across the UK due to mental health in 2017.

The root causes and those most at risk

Mental health and construction industry experts have identified several factors that are likely contributing to the scale of the crisis. Due to the nature of the job, construction workers are regularly away from their family and friends for longer periods of time which has led to loneliness and homesickness being mentioned as factors. Experts have also noted that in general, males are more vulnerable to suicide than females are and more than 80% of the industry’s workforce are men.

Job insecurity and stress at work are other key factors, with more than half of the workforce being self-employed, meaning that they have to constantly contend with each other for brief and unpredictable work. The work itself also tends to be highly stressful due to tight time constraints and the importance of detail. Due to this lack of secure work, financial pressure is almost certainly a contributing factor as this is another prominent cause of stress and anxiety. In addition, experts have indicated that those working in construction are also likely to partake in costly habits including drinking, smoking and online gambling, which can have a significant impact on their bank balance and cause further stress as a result.

How you can help as an employer

1. Making a difference should be at the top of your priority list
The first thing you can do as an employer is to show that you want to make a positive change within your business when it comes to mental health. You can achieve this by committing to making a real difference, in clear terms, and ensuring it is a priority. This is a vital step that, when started with your management team, will help to jumpstart the process of raising awareness and help your team commit to managing mental health proactively.

2. Promote a support helpline
If there isn’t currently a structure in place within your business to support staff members that are experiencing mental ill-health, there are external support options that you can use. A key example of this is The Construction Industry Helpline, which is a support line funded by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The helpline has an online store where you can purchase promotional cards and posters to put up around your workplace and spread awareness of the helpline amongst your staff. You can also encourage your staff to download and use the helpline’s free mobile app, which has been created to provide information and advice on mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

3. Hold a mental health discussion with your entire workforce
The next step you can take to promote positive change within your business is to organise a discussion about mental wellbeing with all your staff. This talk will give you an opportunity to provide your colleagues with more information on common mental health issues, including how to identify them and what to do next. This will enable employees to know when they are struggling with their own mental health and promote a healthy working culture where they can talk about their wellbeing.

4. Enrol your senior team on specialised training courses
Now you’ve begun to raise awareness within your business, it’s important that your senior staff are able to effectively manage mental health within their teams. You can achieve this by sending these members of staff on mental health awareness training courses. This is considered to be best practice as such training will equip your staff with the necessary skills to confidently offer support and advice should a member of their team approach them with a mental health issue.

5. Ensure you have enough mental health first aiders
Finally, you can further safeguard your employees’ mental wellbeing by making sure that there are always certified mental health first aiders visible on site. It’s also important to ensure that you have enough first aiders to cover all workers, whether they are full-time employees or subcontractors. Mental Health First Aid England offer an intensive two-day training course that must be completed before someone can be appointed as a mental health first aider.

The action that RapidQuote are taking

Here at RapidQuote we work closely with contractors across a wide variety of trades within the construction industry, and because of this, the crisis is of upmost importance to us. Our aim is to help remove the stigma that is associated with mental health and support the industry as it navigates this crisis. In allegiance with this all-important cause, we have signed the Building Mental Health charter.

Building Mental Health created their charter to highlight the urgent requirement for change within the industry and promote a positive approach for businesses when it comes to the management of mental health. This includes encouraging workers to talk about their own mental wellbeing with their employers and ensuring that the relevant information is freely available to anyone who needs it. Find out more about Building Mental Health by visiting their website.

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