Mental Health and Well-Being in Construction – The Need for Change
30th May 2023
We talk about health and safety within the construction industry on a daily basis – safety risk assessments, heavy manual handling, harmful chemicals, working at heights – but what about the MENTAL health within the construction industry? This is just as important as physical health and safety, but why is it often overlooked?
In this article, we will highlight the shocking truths behind the mental state of our fellow construction workers and identify ways to help support them so that together, we can improve the mental well-being of the industry.
What we know
In May 2020, the CIOB produced a report investigating the state of mental health and well-being within the construction industry. The report found 26% of construction industry professionals thought about taking their own lives. In 2019, 97% reported being under stress at least once a year and highlighted several work factors contributing to their poor mental health.
Mates in Mind and The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) conducted a new study funded by B&CE Charitable Trust, and the ﬁndings, released in 2022, showed major concerns for the mental health of our construction workers:
A third of construction workers suffer from severe levels of anxiety every day
- 40% would not talk to a colleague about mental health
- 44% worry that their workload is too high
- More than 1 in 3 are consuming more alcohol.
And so many more shocking ﬁndings. Read the full report.
However, these statistics only highlight that we NEED to do better at supporting the mental health of the construction industry, not what we can do.
How can we support the industry?
One of the main things we can do is educate the industry on how to support colleagues and employees struggling with their mental health. Alongside this, we need to break down the barriers of communication and remove that stigma about speaking up if you are struggling with stress, anxiety and depression or any other mental health difﬁculties.
Luckily, there has already been some headway on education and training in the industry, and there are some excellent free resources available that we can share.
The way forward
Speaking about feelings and asking for help can be very difficult in a sector dominated by a macho culture and stigma. The first step towards addressing this issue is to change the industry’s culture and make it acceptable for workers to talk about their mental health issues openly. As part of this, there needs to be a commitment from management at all levels to listen and provide support to workers who are struggling.
Companies also need to actively promote the importance of mental health. This could involve campaigns, posters, talks, or articles like this one, which help to raise awareness of the issue and the support that is available. Additionally, firms should create an inclusive environment supporting people’s mental health. This means ensuring employees feel valued and that their contributions are recognised and providing opportunities for social interaction and team-building activities.
Access to professional mental health services is also essential. In large firms, this could be achieved through an employee assistance programme, which can offer counselling and other mental health services. Small businesses may not have the resources for such programmes, but they can encourage their employees to seek help from external services such as the Samaritans or Mind. Training is another crucial element. It can equip managers and workers with the skills to identify the signs of poor mental health and provide appropriate support. Mental health first aid courses are a practical way to educate people about mental health issues and dispel the myths and stigma that discourage people from seeking help.
Finally, firms need to consider the work-life balance of their employees. Excessive work hours and the resulting stress can significantly impact mental health.
There are already some fantastic initiatives by the big names in construction like Laing O’Rourke, MACE, Wilmott Dixon and Balfour Beatty.
However, over half of the 2.8 million people working in construction are SMEs, self-employed, on an agency contract or a zero-hours contract, and this makes it difficult to get to those people.
At Wilkinson CC, we believe this topic is especially important for these workers. The stress of loneliness and isolation can be particularly acute for small business owners who may not have a large team or support network to lean on. They may feel that they bear the weight of their business’s success or failure on their own, which can contribute to increased stress levels and negatively impact mental well-being.
What are Wilkinson’s doing?
Starting the conversation
At Wilkinsons, we are a small business and want to show fellow SMEs in the construction industry that they can also provide support to their staff even though we don’t have large corporate budgets.
We have engaged with Mid Kent Mind, who also have some fantastic free resources. In particular, we like the Mental Health icebreakers. These are simple questions we can all ask, which can help open up conservations with your colleagues – why not try one of these questions today?
We believe that employee recognition and appreciation can help boost morale and reduce work stress. Research suggests that 86% of employees say recognition makes them feel happier at work.
At Wilkinson, we invested in the Perkbox platform to celebrate and recognise employees for their work achievements and thank them for being awesome with access to discounts and offers they can enjoy.
Access to professional support
Perkbox also helps to support mental health and well-being, with features including workout videos, meditations and sleep stories.
But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to the mental health support that Perkbox provides, we also offer all Wilkinson’s employees Benenden Health Cover which offers a 24-hour Mental Health Support Service. We have also engaged Whitcombe HR as our HR Partner, who provide us with Natalie, a Mental Health First Aider. Natalie has the knowledge and skills to spot signs of people experiencing poor mental health and is conﬁdent to start a conversation and signpost a person to appropriate support.
Self-care is so incredibly important when it comes to looking after our own mental health. We created a series of 8 videos on our Youtube channel titled ‘Wellness at Work’, which gives tips and advice on looking after your mental health at work. These cover topics such as mindfulness, saying no to your boss, and destressing driving – head over to our youtube channel and watch now:
It is clear that mental health is a serious construction industry issue that can no longer be overlooked. With commitment and effort from us all, it is a problem that can be addressed and hopefully overcome.
At Wilkinson CC, we believe in creating a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable talking about their mental health. Together, we can make a difference and improve the mental well-being of everyone in the industry.
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If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this Blog, here are details of organisations that can offer advice and support
Mates in Mind – “BeAMate” text support service: To use the service, simply text “BeAMate” to 85258 and trained volunteers can help with issues including anxiety, stress, loneliness or depression and are available 24/7.
Samaritans: They provide confidential emotional support 24/7. You can call them at 116 123 or visit their website at www.samaritans.org.
Mind: Mind is a mental health charity that offers information and support. You can contact their helpline at 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm) or visit their website at www.mind.org.uk.
Lighthouse Construction Industry Helpline: This helpline is specifically dedicated to supporting workers in the construction industry. You can call them at 0345 605 1956 (Monday to Friday, 8 am to 8 pm) or visit their website at www.constructionindustryhelpline.com.