Mental health in trades and construction: Creating an open and stigma free culture in a high-pressure industry
The 10th of October marked World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the impact of poor mental health as well as driving positive conversations.
Mental Health UK reports 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health challenges at some point in their lives and according to Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 7 people experience mental health problems in the workplace.
The construction and skills industry reports some of the highest cases of mental health issues in the UK, and according to the Office for National Statistics, workers in construction are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide than in any other working sector. An industry fraught with pressures – it’s a high-stakes environment, coupled with labour shortages that mean existing workers are under increasing pressure.
Mental health challenges in the construction industry
A new study for Mental Health awareness carried out by IronmongeryDirect and ElectricalDirect found that 73% of UK builders experience mental health issues and symptoms related to anxiety and depression, and a staggering 92% of them do not feel comfortable discussing these issues with others.
According to the Institute of Employment Rights, suicide rates in the construction industry increased for the 5th consecutive time, begging a closer look into how we can make the industry more accepting of mental health issues. Members of the industry must proactively create a safe space for the workforce and establish an environment that is conducive to empathy and acceptance of mental health issues. The gender imbalance in the industry, along with other pressures, can prevent workers from speaking about their mental health. Data shows that while one in four people in the UK will struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives, in the construction industry, men are three times more susceptible to mental health crises and suicide.
Last month, the Prince of Wales met with construction industry workers and heard that many had faced mental health challenges and said they found it difficult to receive any help and be open about how they were feeling.
Culture and attitude change must come from within the industry. It starts with leadership and tangible steps should be taken to have open conversations about mental health. Encouraging transparency and acceptance, ultimately preventing the stigma which can be so damaging.
Supporting mental health
Steps employers can take
It’s important for employers to create an open environment that welcomes and actively invites mental health conversations.
Employers can start by making the most of support that is readily available, such as mental health first aid training to employees and employers alike. The training can be a crucial way to build an understanding of how to respond to mental health concerns. There are a variety of training options and resources available to employers and their people that help to create the environment for the workplace to be more supportive and inclusive.
Steps individuals in the trades industry can take
For employees, mindfulness is a useful tool in destigmatising the conversation around mental health.
Mindfulness can help you become more self-aware and choose how you respond to certain stressors and stimuli. It can help you feel calmer, and better able to cope with unhelpful or unkind thoughts by exercising compassion towards yourself.
It’s a skill that needs to be practised, so we have rounded up some techniques that can help get you started.
- Being mindful of our thoughts: This means being aware that our feelings don’t have to define our experiences. You can practice mindfulness throughout the day, even while answering e-mails, sitting in traffic or completing a job. Speak to yourself kindly and recognise if a negative thought is forming in your brain, it’s likely your body is also reacting so now is the time to pause and take note of the good.
- Being mindful of our body indicators: Sometimes our body knows that something is wrong before our mind does. Feeling tired, irritable, or out of breath could be a sign that your body needs to pause and take a moment to ground itself.
- Being mindful of distance: Try and create space between the situation you’re in and the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing.
For more resources on mindfulness, the NHS has a comprehensive guide to establishing practices that can offer more guidance.
Rising rates of suicide and mental health crises in the construction industry are a cause of significant concern.
The construction industry is one of the largest in the UK, and the backbone of our built environment – it’s important that we pay attention to individuals in this sector. Mental health first aid training, encouraging a culture of transparency, and destigmatising mental health are the cornerstones to changing the sector’s attitude towards mental health. We are encouraging the industry to start making a change from within and support their colleagues to thrive.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, please reach out to someone. Either a friend, a family member, a neighbour, a colleague, or your GP. There are also others who are there to help:
|Hub of hope||www.hubofhope.co.uk||A resource for those needing someone to talk to.|
|Samaritans||https://www.samaritans.org/ 116 123||Samaritans provide emotional support to anyone who is struggling to cope and needs someone to listen. Local branches can be visited during the day.|
|Mind||www.mind.org.uk||Provide urgent help and advice and local signposting options.|
|Mind kit||https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/5740/five-ways-to-wellbeing.pdf||Provides some top tactics for implementing the five ways to wellbeing in your life.|
|Action for happiness||www.actionforhappiness.org/||Action for Happiness helps people take action for a happier and more caring world.|
|SOBS – Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide||https://uksobs.org/||SOBS offers support for those bereaved or affected by suicide through a helpline and a network of local support groups led by volunteers who have themselves been bereaved by suicide.|
|PAPYRUS – prevention of young suicide||https://www.papyrus-uk.org/ 0800 068 4141||Support and advice to young people who may be at risk of suicide and to those concerned about a vulnerable person.|
|National Suicide Prevention Alliance||www.nspa.org.uk||An alliance of public, private and voluntary organisations in England who care about suicide prevention. This website provides information about suicide prevention activities of members and includes a directory of support services for people bereaved by suicide.|
|Self-help guides||www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications||A range of self-help guides from the mental health foundation.|
|Citizens Advice||https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ 0800 223 1133||Cost of living support, benefit advice, etc.|
|Step change – debt||https://www.stepchange.org/ 0800 1381111||Free debt advice and support.|
Please remember that you are not alone.