We need to talk about Mental Health

 

For years, workers in the construction industry have been suffering in silence due to a stigma surrounding sharing their feelings with colleagues.

This perceived inability to discuss what is on their mind, prevents construction workers from getting the help and support they need from their friends, colleagues and employers, ultimately leading to many workers taking their own lives.

 

So why is construction’s mental health record so bad?

Around the world, suicide rates in the construction industry are often higher when compared with the general population. There are many factors that can influence someone’s mental health in a negative way, here we look at some of the common risk factors associated with the construction industry.

The construction industry is still predominantly made up of males, and statistics show that men in the UK are 3 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Unfortunately, even in this age of progressiveness, the stereotypical macho culture associated with the Construction industry still exists and only serves to exacerbate the issue among workers.

This culture gives rise to widespread bullying (around 60% of people working in the construction industry have experienced bullying according to statistics),

making those that are suffering from mental health issues, much less likely to admit they have a problem or ask for help due to the perceived response from their peers.

Working in construction is tough. The long hours spent away from family and friends, the labour intensive nature of the work, difficult working conditions and irregular pay causing financial uncertainty, are just some of the issue’s workers have to face on a daily basis. These factors all have the potential to cause or exacerbate mental ill health, and, when faced on a daily basis, it is easy to see why the industry has a problem.

Being away from families and friends due to long hours and the potential for long distance travel often robs workers of their normal support networks where they may feel more comfortable in sharing what they are going through. They are more likely to feel isolated and depressed in these situations.

 

What can we do?

As an individual, you may think that there isn’t much you can do to help someone suffering from mental ill health and that it should be left to the employers and professionals. The truth is, you could be the difference between someone getting help or suffering in silence.

TalkPeople suffering from mental ill health often feel isolated and unable to share how they are feeling, usually because of the stigma that surrounds sharing what’s on their mind. Encouraging them to talk is the first step in breaking down these barriers and getting the help they need. Remember to listen, be patient, don’t judge or criticize and don’t minimize what they are going through. 

Know the SignsMental ill health has many symptoms and can manifest in very different ways. Often, the sufferer doesn’t know why they feel like they do and need support and encouragement to seek help. If you suspect someone is depressed, there are several signs to look for. Pay attention to any changes in behaviour – The person may be sleeping less, eating less, or losing weight. Watch for any changes in mood – A person living with depression may suffer from mood swings and struggle to concentrate. If you believe someone is considering suicide, let them know that you care and are there to listen while encouraging them to seek professional help.

 

Know where to get support

While you as an individual can play a major part in helping someone suffering from mental ill health, it is important that those suffering get help and support from as many avenues as possible. A number of construction specific Mental health charities exist to provide support and guidance to those suffering while working to break the stigma that exists in the industry. If you are suffering or know someone who is, there are many charities and organisations that you can get in contact with.

 

Mates in Mind – matesinmind.org

Building Mental Health – buildingmentalhealth.net

Mind Your Head – mindyourhead.org.uk

 

Conclusion

In construction, we take physical health and safety seriously, but, at a time where suicide kills more people than falls from height, we must give mental health and safety the same amount of attention and investment given to other site hazards, and, understand that not all wounds are visible.

 

The construction industry is actively improving the support available to workers while trying to break the stigma associated with mental health, but it is important that we understand that there is more we can do as individuals, simply by encouraging our colleagues to talk. Do not underestimate the impact you can make just by talking to someone. You could save someone’s life.

 



About the Author

Matt McKeown

Matthew joined Safety For Construction as a Principal Designer and CDM Advisor in July 2016, with over 10 years’ experience working in health and safety across a variety of sectors including spending the previous 5 years working in the United Arab Emirates. Matt now manages his own team of Principal Designers on projects nationwide.
Having worked with a diverse range of people throughout his career, Matt has honed his communication skills and ability to develop and maintain close working relationships at all levels of a project. Matt is a keen problem solver and uses his experience to offer pragmatic solutions in design and throughout a scheme.
In his spare time, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors with his beloved French Bulldog, Marcel, and attempting to play golf. Matt has a keen interest in everything music and sport related and can often be found playing air guitar in his Man United themed bedroom.