We are only human. We all experience pain, sorrow, anger, stress and anxiety at one time or another. Some may experience more or express it differently, but it is there within us all the same.
With little to distract ourselves at the moment and the inability to see loved ones, things can quickly start to feel as though they’re getting on top of us. The importance of checking in on ourselves and those dear to us is being widely realised as a top priority.
With industries taking substantial strides in promoting wellbeing and talking openly about our mental health, we are gradually reducing the remaining stigma attached to these important conversations.
The construction industry however, is somewhat behind other sectors in addressing this important topic. This blog aims to discuss the reasons for this struggle and raise awareness for the support systems in place for those suffering from this silent epidemic.
Let’s Get Talking
The construction industry is known to have health and safety initiatives as pivotal organizational centerpieces. However, when it comes to feeling comfortable opening up about mental health, there appears to be quite a gap.
Research conducted in 2019 found that, among a sample of construction workers in the UK, 70% had experienced depression, and 87% had experienced anxiety. Despite this, there was still the view that they did not feel comfortable opening up to colleagues or informing a site manager due to surrounding stigma.
It’s becoming more and more acknowledged that a lot of men really struggle to talk about how they’re feeling. This can often be down to the belief that it will seem less “macho”, but a lot of the time comes down to not knowing where to turn. With a large proportion of the construction industry made up of men, it is vital to address this issue and raise awareness on how to help yourself and those around you.
Reports reveal that some of the largest causes of mental health problems in the workplace are job insecurity, long hours, late payments, and problematic pay arrangements. The short term nature of contracts in construction, paired with a reduction in job security as a result of Covid, further emphasize the importance of acting now.
The issue at hand is pressing, but there is no overnight miracle for shifting attitudes that take resilience, patience and time to change. Therefore in the short term, the focus for protecting ourselves and fellow workers sits within making confidential and approachable systems more widely known about and available.
Building Mental Health in Construction (BMH)
BMH is a framework formed by a community of volunteers in the construction industry who are on a mission to create a freely available, industry-wide framework and charter to tackle the mental health crisis in the construction industry.
They have identified the personal nature of each individual problem, and thus have introduced a construction industry helpline app, adaptable Tool Box Talk, helpline packs, Mental Health First Aid training and many more for those struggling, to use whichever method works best. These platforms make a pivotal first step in ensuring that there are resources available that allow for the conversation to get started, whilst educating as many people as possible about where to seek help.
Mates In Mind
Mates In Mind, is a charity in the UK that launched in 2017, focused on tackling issues within a circle of influence, by educating employers on available support and guidance on mental health, mental illness and mental wellbeing, and how they can address this within their organisations.
MIM recognize that by creating a culture for free flowing conversation, and honesty about mental health, issues affecting construction workers can be worked on, rather than letting them build up, which only makes things worse.
Within the first year of launching MIM built up a community of 185 support systems throughout the construction industry, reaching over 187,000 individuals across the sector. The goal for 2025 is to have reached 75% of the construction industry.
What can we do?
The more resources available for creating a culture for open conversations, the more it becomes easier and easier for institutions to integrate wellbeing and mental health education initiatives into the business. Whilst long term it can feel daunting tackling issues at the root, the road to change starts with the smallest action. We all know how easy it is to brush a question off with ‘I’m fine’ or ‘don’t worry about it’, especially at the moment, but by checking in on a mate who perhaps hasn’t seemed themselves lately, it can be surprising how valuable simply opening up a channel for free communication can be. Starting small, can have a big impact in the grand scheme of things, so make sure to look after yourselves and those you care about, it only takes a text.
At Fourblue we have a great wealth of experience within the construction industry, and know at the moment how tough things can be. If there are any concerns you have, we would be delighted to help and to provide further info on who best to speak to. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01892 234999
Author: Merlin Parr