Tackling the Mental Health Crisis – As published in Total Installer
I write this on the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week – the UK’s national campaign for mental health and wellbeing. The last year has taken a toll on all of us, in some way, shape or form and if the stats weren’t worrying before, they certainly will be now.
To mark this year’s campaign, the Association for Project Management has released the results of a survey which found that 87% percent of project professionals agreeing that “their mental wellbeing has been negatively impacted by their main project”.
Another report release today by financial services firm Close Brothers has found that more than half of employees have seen their mental health worries worsen during the pandemic, with finance worries, concerns about physical health and seemingly endless lockdowns all cited as the biggest causes.
A report carried out by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) and 25 other construction trade bodies for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 found that 90 percent of construction bosses have suffered from mental health problems because of late payments. A massive 92 percent of respondents said their business faced payment issues, which led to stress, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, extreme anger and insomnia, with 10 percent reporting suicidal thoughts due to late or unfair payment.
The construction sector is one of the industries that is most affected by mental health. Suicide rates for UK construction workers is more than three times the national average and suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under 45 – so we have much more to tackle in our male-dominated industry.
In 2019, almost half of the construction workers who took part in the Construction News Mind Matters Survey said they had taken time off work due to ‘unmanageable stress and mental health issues’, yet only 28 percent of those respondents were honest with their employer about the reason for their absence.
This is really indicative of the wider issue that’s at play here and as employers, and as an industry, I think we all need to have clear strategies on how we can destigmatise conversations about mental health in the workplace.
I think we also have to be mindful about how the last 12-18 months has affected us, from uncertainty over jobs, finances, even the future of businesses to now in the recovery working longer and longer hours to play catch-up, especially for those who are running installation businesses and wearing multiple ‘hats’.
Certass TA combined with the Lighthouse Club charity in December 2020 to produce a small video aimed at installers who are often isolated by mental health programmes aimed more at the office-based people. The message of ‘Ask Twice Think and Be Kind’ is still so poignant to our industry as no construction worker or their family should be alone in a crisis.
Too often, we avoid difficult conversations – whether that is because of our old British ‘stiff upper lip’ or because we are fearful of judgement – but talking about how we feel can make such a difference. If you know someone, who may be struggling, offering a friendly ear is a great thing to do for your friend or colleague, with countless stories in the media of this simple act being the differentiator between life and death.
We have a direct responsibility to our employees and our industry peers and encouraging these conversations should be the first step for us. Luckily, there are many organisations out there who can offer support and advice at levels – from employees to board level.
If you are struggling, I would urge you to look at Lighthouse Club website (www.lighthouseclub.org) or download the Construction Industry Helpline app or visit mentalhealth.org.uk. If you feel have no one to talk to but want to chat to someone then please call the Construction Industry helpline on 0345 605 1956.