By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East
Work can be a big cause of stress when demands are greater than the ability to cope, or relationships with management is poor. According to data from the Office for National Statistics released this year, there were more suicides in construction than in any other profession in the five years to the end of 2015. The figures showed there were 1,419 suicides by those working in skilled construction and building trades from 2011 to 2015, that’s 284 a year.
Earlier this month, the industry took part in Mental Health Awareness Week and looked at the best way to address, prevent and manage work-related stress. We must ensure employees and employers have the tools and knowledge necessary to create a mentally healthy workplace where everyone feels valued and supported.
Life in the industry is undoubtedly stressful and challenging. It is essential that we filter the importance of talking about mental health through companies and the supply chain. Commitment needs to come from the top as they are the people with the power to make things happen and create policies, procedures and support as necessary. To ensure we have a mentally safe industry, we need to put measures in place to increase good supportive workplaces, which is exactly what the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is trying to do.
The CITB has committed £500,000 to train mental health first aid instructors and improve the wellbeing of UK construction workers. The funding has been awarded through the CITB Flexible Fund to Building Mental Health – an industry initiative including Lendlease, Mace, Multiplex, Morgan Sindall and Laing O’Rourke. The project aims to have 156 construction Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructors fully trained and operating by September 2019 with a minimum of 2,500 on-site mental health first aiders by 2020. Building Mental Health will work with MHFA England and use the funding to deliver 13 MHFA instructor courses for construction, with each course taking up to 12 candidates. In Newcastle alone, there are 9 MHFA courses this year.
More than 12% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35. It’s harder to tackle on construction sites. Asking for help and opening up about emotions are just not things that come naturally to many of those working in the industry because of the macho environment, but it’s important we start making changes and lead the way for cultural change. It’s comforting to know that more companies are now offering mental health first aid. It gives me faith that the industry is well on its way to changing.
To book onto a MHFA course, or for more information visit www.mhfaengland.org/
For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.