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What Does Mental Health Awareness Week Mean For Construction?

17th May 2019 by Matt Steptoe


It is well known that mental health is particularly problematic in the construction industry. The Centre for Control and Prevention has stated that construction has a high concentration of risk factors associated with feelings of helplessness:


  • Competitive, high-pressured working environments
  • A high prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse
  • End-of-season buy-offs
  • Prolonged separation from family for workers


Now, statistics will never do full service to the truth. However, they do allow us to get a sense of the scope of the issues we’re facing.


The construction industry is said to have one in six employees experiencing depression, anxiety or other stress-related problems, and male construction workers are at the greatest risk of suicide of any profession in the UK. In fact, suicide rates are 3x higher in construction than the population average. Whilst construction is considered a ‘dangerous’ job, construction workers are actually up to 10x more likely to die of suicide than from on-site accidents.


Clearly, this is a serious problem.


However, as Mental Health Awareness Week has helped to illustrate, the societal stigma surrounding these problems is equally problematic.


30% of all sick-days in construction are taken due to mental health related problems; however, 63% of workers do not tell their employees the reason for their absence. Indeed, in a Mind Matters survey done last year, 81% of constructions workers said they felt stigma was still attached to mental health concerns.


It is this stigma we must first face before the underlying problems can be addressed.


How do we fight the stigma?

If Mental Health Awareness Week has shown us anything, it is the incredible hunger for honest discussions of mental health, and the public willingness to engage in such discussions.


How we fight the stigma, then, depends on what level we are treating it at.


For employers, becoming educated in the area is essential. Beyond that, they need to be creating spaces where workers feel supported, ensuring their working environment is positive and encouraging of discussion and openness.


Managers and workers need to become better listeners, and learn the signs of potentially hidden problems. Developing a satisfying work-life balance will be beneficial to all. And most importantly, raising awareness of the issue and the available helplines and aid and prevention programmes could potentially be life-saving.

Beyond this, we all need to break free of our preconceptions and biases about mental health and move to a place of genuine compassion. Everybody needs a goal, and becoming the kind of person who, when called upon for help, is able to rise to the occasion seems as good an aim as we can think of.


So what comes next?

It is hard to overstate how important an issue mental health is. Throughout this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve seen incredibly brave souls from all corners of culture come forward to tell their tales. And while this has gifted us with moments of profound illumination, there is so much to be done it can be dizzying.


The truth is, one week is not enough to break the stigma attached to mental health in our society.


It will take continual, dedicated effort to make lasting change, which is why TSA pledges to maintain its efforts in this area. We will continue attempting to provoke conversation, shed light on important areas, provide support for our candidates and employees, and allow for progressive, compassionate conversations to take centre stage.


We invite the industry to join us in doing so.

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