Enhancing Mental Health in Construction

The 2021 Pulse Survey by The Centre for Workplace Mental Health has been published in the UK, highlighting the critical importance of increasing awareness regarding mental well being in the construction industry. It currently ranks second highest in terms of suicide rates amongst all major sectors. To address this issue, several steps can be implemented to enhance mental health within the construction industry. They have published some tips on how best to tackle the topic of mental health within the workplace.

The survey notes multiple factors likely to contribute to a higher suicide rate and mental health concerns:

- Male dominated industry, with men experiencing the highest suicide rates.
- Toughness and strength are perceived as being highly valued, and having mental health conditions, or seeking help is often seen as a weakness.
- Fear of consequences associated with mental health issues and seeking help.
- Shame and fear of judgment
- Chronic pain
- Seasonal and cyclical work contributing to family and financial strain.
- High stress and deadline driven work.
- Limited control of the work
- Long working hours, including potential for excessive overtime leading to fatigue.
- Separation of family when working away from home

The survey report highlights numerous ways in which companies can tackle the issue and better look after their employees:

1. Increase Leadership Engagement

Leaders should reinforce the importance of employees taking care of their mental health and encourage them to reach out when help is needed. Individuals in a position of leadership should be:
- Vocal: Regularly talk about mental health
- Vulnerable: Share personal stories and demonstrate that ‘it is okay not to be okay’
- Visible: Understands that addressing mental health is important and a good business practice

2. Raise mental health awareness

It is important for employees to feel that their mental and physical health is valued. This may be through integrating resources, information and policies on mental health into human resources.

Avoiding the ‘one and done’ approach is important, share information with employees on a regular basis via newsletters, emails, posters, crisis hotlines and wellbeing resources.

Training managers and first line supervisors to better understand mental health and substance misuse conditions can be a beneficial first step in any company.

3. Build a caring culture

Everyone likes to feel a sense of belonging and comradeship with their co-workers so ensure that employees feel valued within the business which is free from harassment, bullying and discrimination.

Ensure that employees know that there will not be consequences if they seek help and consider a mentorship or peer supportive initiative.