Wellbeing: Taking care of mental health
Mental health has been hit hard following the COVID-19 pandemic, with two construction workers taking their own lives every working day, according to the HSE. It’s a sad fact that people who work in this industry are three times more likely to take their own life than in other sectors.
There is a misconception that people who work in manual jobs are tough, both mentally and physically. However, according to research by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, which deals first hand with the results of not addressing issues that are happening ‘inside the hard hat’ (HITHH), this simply isn’t the case.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the industry, as over 53% of the working population in the construction industry are self-employed, agency workers or on zero-hour contracts, so work has the potential to drop off fast.
A survey commissioned by the charity with Glasgow Caledonian showed an increase in suicide in construction from 2015 to 2019. As a result the charity launched its HITHH campaign, aimed at everyone in the industry, to raise awareness of mental wellbeing issues.
“We need more companies to engage with, accelerate and amplify our efforts to improve our workforce’s wellbeing,” says Bill Hill, chief executive officer of the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, which partnered with the CIPHE’s Under Pressure mental health campaign in 2019. “With over 500 suicides every year in construction, we are all morally obligated to be on the lookout for individuals who are struggling.
“It’s not always obvious that someone is struggling, but the key is to look out for change. If a person is normally cheery and then, over time, they seem quiet and withdrawn, ask if they are okay. Always ask twice. It’s so easy to say you are okay to someone when you’re not, so ask again, make eye contact and wait for the answer.”
Whether you’re struggling with mental health issues yourself or you suspect a colleague or employee may be struggling, there is plenty of support available.
The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity has a large portfolio of free resources and training, including a 24/7 confidential helpline, a self-help app and online interactive wellbeing masterclasses. It also offers hour-long interactive wellbeing sessions and a two-day MHFA England approved Mental Health First Aider course. The sessions are based around workplace wellbeing issues and topics include: stress management, building resilience, work-life balance, mindfulness and an introduction to meditation.
“A crucial element of our strategy is to proactively support the industry’s mental wellbeing and ensure the widespread availability of construction-focused training programmes,” says Bill.
“Anyone in crisis can help themselves with the app, call us on the helpline or talk to somebody on site – they should never be alone. We want to deliver a message of hope and reassure our construction community that ‘we’ve got their back’ and that we’re working tirelessly to ensure that no construction worker or their family is alone in a crisis.
“This isn’t an easy subject to tackle, but by helping to remove the stigma about mental wellbeing we can encourage people to start a conversation. This simple action could make all the difference to someone and could even save a life.”
For more information and to download free resources visit www.lighthouseclub.org