As most of you are aware it is Mental Health Awareness week next week, and we didn’t want this important event to pass by without comment from Apple Construction Training. We see many people from the construction industry pass through our training centre, most of whom are training to operate heavy plant equipment, work at height or supervise and manage busy construction sites. Good mental health is essential in order for anyone to be able to carry out these tasks safely, so talking about mental health and issues that are affecting our students is essential to ensure both their safety and the safety of those they work with.
This is the really bad part. Male construction site workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male. We don’t know about you, but this really shocked us. Statistically, construction has 350,000 people at any one time experiencing depression, anxiety or stress, and the chances are that even though we work with these people all day every day, we aren’t aware of it. The stats are so high for construction because it is a very male-dominated industry where the perception of your regular site worker is a ‘tough guy’. Asking for help or opening up about feelings and emotions is not something that comes naturally to many of those working in our industry. Almost 20% of work-related illness in the construction sector is attributed to mental health issues which are costing industry billions of pounds a year.
What is being done to combat mental health issues?
In September 2016, the Health in Construction Leadership Groups (HCLG) established Mates in Mind with the support of the British Safety Council. The scheme was implemented to raise awareness of this issue and address the ‘elephant in the room’ that is poor mental health in the UK construction industry. The Charity aims to support and assist employers in tackling mental health issues in their organisations. Not only has the charity brought mental health issues into the spotlight but it wants to give both employers and workers the tools they need to address these issues and give help to those that need it.
What can I do?
If you are an employer, the first thing you need to do is look at the culture surrounding mental health in your company. You can adopt a culture change by signing up to the Time to Change Pledge. Team leaders and managers need to be given the correct training, knowledge and skills to spot the signs of mental health problems and provide support when needed. Being open and honest about mental health is important. Lead by example and make sure your workforce feels confident that they can approach the subject when they need to and will be offered the level of support required.
As a workmate, just be a friend. It’s not always easy to spot the signs of depression or anxiety in others, but if you notice something is up, take five minutes to check up on your co-workers over a cuppa. Give them the encouragement they need to seek help and check up on them with the odd text or call. Be mindful of how you talk to them – don’t be over patronising but steer clear of words or phrases that could cause offence. Sometimes the smallest thing can be the trigger that pushes someone over the edge, so be cautious and considered in your conversations.
And lastly, if you notice that a co-worker is struggling, acting out of character or generally not themselves but is adamant that they are ok, escalate your concerns to a higher level. Not everyone is ready to acknowledge their condition or accept help, but keeping quiet about your concerns could mean that someone you work with becomes another tragic statistic.