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Tackling mental health problems in the construction sector

Research shows people who work in construction often suffer worse with their wellbeing, so this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week we’re discussing how they can be best supported.

This week – 13th May to 19th May – is Mental Health Awareness Week, which is an event that was established by the Mental Health Foundation in 2001 with an aim to tackle stigma and help people understand and prioritise their and others’ mental state. To mark the occasion, we will be directing readers’ attention to the construction industry, as research has found people in the sector are more likely to struggle with mental illness than any other workers.

Tears on face of crop anonymous woman

Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has woefully highlighted that workers in construction are four times more likely to die by taking their own life than in any other sector. In addition, two hardware and electrical organisations, otherwise known as IronmongeryDirect and ElectricalDirect have reported that 82% of builders in the UK grapple with work-related mental health problems every year, with an overwhelming 92% admitting to feeling uncomfortable discussing their problems.

Against this backdrop, research from Fix Radio – the UK’s only national radio station dedicated to builders in the trades – has revealed that 38% of tradesmen are now experiencing the worst levels of stress and anxiety in their lifetime.

How the mental health crisis is impacting the trades sector

Clive Holland, host of The Clive Holland Show – which is aired on Fix Radio – has claimed that there are an unjust number of reasons why the rate of suicide is so high in the construction sector, and these must be addressed now.

‘There are several underlying reasons why the rate of suicide in the construction trades is so high,’ Clive said. ‘Firstly, there is a macho image in the industry and men are not brilliant at ‘opening up’ and discussing their feelings. But I feel that this is changing slowly, but surely.

‘Secondly, there is a lot of stress involved in running a small business – there are long hours, few holidays, slow payers and cash flow issues. In the last two years particularly, spiralling costs of materials and spiking energy prices have squeezed margins even further. Couple that with the growing skills shortage – it ramps up extra pressures on daily site life. The pandemic has magnified many of these problems – tradespeople will tell you that they have never been this busy. Many are fully booked until the end of the year, if not further.’

Clive added: ‘It is also worth remembering that while many of our tradespeople have fantastic skills and deliver outstanding work, the weakest part of their game is dealing with the details of their business. Great tradespeople are not necessarily great business people and it is worth remembering that they often feel intimidated by the admin and financial side of the job.’

Where can help seek help?

The demand for national helplines has displayed the growing desperation among industry professions for support – the Big Brew, a national helpline for mental health – revealed that over a third of texts were from individual construction workers contemplating suicide, with 16% of those relating to depression. These heartbreaking statistics have been published at a challenging time in the sector as individuals have reported struggling with schedules, material shortages, the ongoing pressures of delivering housing targets and new environmental directives.

To try and help ease some of the pressure and combat stereotypes associated with people in this profession seeking help, Fix Radio have also highlighted various helplines that are on hand to offer assistance.

These include:

  • The Lighthouse Club: 100% focused on improving the welfare and wellbeing of the construction community in the UK and Ireland. They provide a range of free and proactive services to help companies deliver the best possible support to their employees and their families.
  • 24/7 Confidential Helpline:Available to everyone on your site including subcontractors, agency workers and allied trades. Their Construction Industry Helpline covers all aspects of emotional, physical and financial wellbeing, and is available in many different languages through our partnership with translation services
  • Self-support app:A downloadable Wellbeing Support App called ‘Construction Industry Helpline’ that covers all the aspects of wellbeing. The app is packed with information to learn about conditions, how to develop coping strategies with signposting to over 3000 accredited organisations that provide support. It really is a ‘mate’ in your back pocket
  • Text HardHat:A 24/7 service dedicated to providing immediate access to text back counselling
  • Wellbeing Masterclasses:These are one hour scheduled CPD Accredited wellbeing education sessions covering topics such as: managing stress, building resilience, work-life balance, mindfulness, meditation, financial management and many more
  • Lighthouse Beacons:Having identified over 160 volunteer centres around the UK and Ireland where workers can drop in to meet like-minded people, socialise and talk – the Beacons are facilitated by individuals with lived experience, and in this confidential environment, encourage those struggling with life problems to share their issues and if required, seek further help

Image: Karolina Grabowska

More on mental health:

Private renting is fuelling a mental health crisis, survey shows

Employers given tools to improve mental health of workers


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