Health & safety at work – let’s talk about mental health

25 April 2019
It’s a taboo subject that’s often pushed to the side, but why? Stigma surrounding mental health has contributed to silencing people who fear disclosure, which can obstruct their access to much-needed support. 

Data from the Office of National Statistics highlights that male site workers in construction are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male. Between 2011 and 2015, of the 13,232 at-work suicides on record, those within the construction trade made up a huge 13.2%. Construction charity, Mates in Mind also notes that 1 in 6 individuals has an undiagnosed mental health issue, with  1 in 5 worrying that an admission could result in job loss.

It goes without saying that working within the construction industry often demands long working hours which can be proven to induce stress, with many employees working away from home for long periods of time. Countless studies pinpoint bravado as a widespread image in the sector and note that asking for help and opening up about emotions are not things that necessarily come naturally for many workers who continue to suffer in silence.

Knowing the signs is of paramount importance and it is the job of employers to understand that poor mental health can manifest itself differently from person to person. Information from the <Construction Financial Management Association> sets out some signs to look out for that can indicate poor mental health, including increased lateness, isolation from peers and decreased productivity.  

With this in mind, mental health clearly needs to be made a priority by all site managers and employers. Sometimes this does not require a simple fix and takes ongoing education for employers to understand exactly what they can do to help. This education can range from culture checks, to establish specific pain points for individuals, to providing a mental health safety net so that employers are ensuring that everyone who reports in to them are made aware of the support network that they have available to them. Employers, and peers alike, need to reduce the stigma attached to speaking out by raising awareness, changing attitudes and providing knowledge to empower employees to look after their mental health and wellbeing.

Sometimes, the easiest thing that we can all do is talk to one another. If you are concerned about a peer, simply ask them if they need to chat; create a safe environment so they can open up to you if they need to and avoid using insensitive words that can often increase the stigma surrounding mental health and make it tougher for people to discuss issues that they are internally facing.

The industry as a whole is taking great steps in helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, however there is always more that all of us can do just by being aware of tell-tale signs and encouraging colleagues to speak; never underestimate the impact you can make by simply talking to someone. It could save a life.