Addressing mental wellbeing in construction
Travel back 20 years and the biggest dangers on a building site were falling from a height or being struck by a falling object. Thankfully, great strides have been made in on-site safety standards over the past few decades. But the construction industry still faces another danger - construction workers are now six times more likely to die from suicide than a fall.
In any business, the wellbeing of workers should be paramount. Construction is a challenging industry; You don’t necessarily have a job for life and it can often mean working away from home. It can also be a stressful environment, with the pressure to get things done quickly, without any room for error.
The industry has not historically had a culture of openness when it comes to awareness of mental health issues either. This needs to change. It’s a sad fact that the old-fashioned taboo remains, that nine out of 10 people who experience mental health issues say they face stigma and discrimination as a result. This is particularly acute in the construction industry, which remains a male-dominated sector. Statistically, men are less likely to discuss their vulnerabilities or health issues, particularly concerning mental illness and in the UK, men are more prone to taking their own lives than women.
The impact of unchecked mental ill health varies hugely. Low self-esteem may result in dips in engagement and productivity or a more severe case might arise, leading to deep depression and even attempted suicide, putting both that person and others’ safety at risk.
What is comforting is the fact that treatment and care has an exponentially positive effect on those afflicted. Often all it takes is for someone to reach out and offer to listen without judgement.
In fact, almost 85% of those who receive treatment see improvements in their mental health. Treatment works and we need to improve access, particularly to talking therapies.
Lendlease is determined to improve access to treatment for their employees by making sure there are always mental health first aiders available for confidential conversations and guidance. More than 400 Lendlease employees have received mental health first aid or awareness training, which equates to one in three.
Teaching people how to spot the early signs of mental health issues and to feel confident in offering help. Mental health first aiders are taught to re-frame negative thoughts in a more positive light and support the person’s recovery.
The course provides in-depth coaching which covers topics that range from defining what mental health is to spotting the early signs that someone might need support and how to help and if necessary, guide them towards additional support. With this training and positive dialogue, we are helping to dispel misconceptions and break down the stigma attached to mental illness, which often stems from ignorance.
Duty of care
Action on mental health has never been more necessary. We live in a sometimes irrational, ever more complex and fast-paced world. The mounting strains and inherent pressures of the working environment inevitably take their toll on our workforce. Our industry has a moral duty of care to our people and, equally, we all have a responsibility to remove stigma and educate ourselves on the causes and treatments of depression, anxiety and other stress-related illnesses.
Training mental health first aiders is a crucial first step and should go some way to meeting Mental Health First Aid England’s goal to train one in every 10 of the UK’s population.
At SCAPE, we fully endorse the steps that Lendlease are taking to address mental health within the construction industry.
In an environment where statistics dominate as the key measure of project success, we must never forget that those metrics are achieved by people.
As an industry, we must do more to provide the support and help that the individuals in our teams need, the moment they need it. Thats why we are working with Rethink Mental Illness.
Each year, Rethink Mental Illness helps around 60,000 people overcome mental health challenges, live independently and realise they are not alone.
For further information please visit our Charitable Support page..
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