Mental Health in Construction

Construction Buddies Awareness

Mental Health In The Construction Industry – A Cause of Alarm?

When we think about those who work in the construction industry, our minds immediately go to images of tough men with big muscles. We believe that it takes a particular type of person and an iron will for these jobs, someone mentally strong on top of their physical strength. It turns out we were wrong the whole time.

How Does Mental Health Affect the Construction Industry?

Visit any construction site, and you’ll see many signs warning and reminding the workers about safety. The foreman would even hold safety briefings every morning and ensure all equipment and tools are at their peak. Even government agencies were formed to enforce safety rules in a job site.

Sadly, construction workers are never oriented about mental health issues they might face or made aware of the mental crisis happening in the construction industry. Since it is a male-dominated industry, the culture and stigma are that men don’t suffer from depression and anxiety because they’re a tough lot.

Why is Mental Health so Bad in the Construction Industry?

Take a look at the data presented by this report from SHP. It states that the suicide rate for construction workers in the UK is over three times the national average. It is  63% higher than in any other reporting industry.

Factors that contribute to poor mental health:

  • Job uncertainty
  • Long hours
  • Tight deadlines
  • Working away
  • Work culture
  • Alcohol
  • Financial pressure

Here are another eye-opening data according to Construction News:

  • 60% of people agreed or strongly agreed that there was not enough awareness about mental health in the construction industry.
  • 90% still believe that their employers do not support mental health problems despite struggling with mental health problems. 

Another report from Holistic Health Care Group has a shocking story to tell:

  • Construction workers have more deaths from suicide than falls every year.
  • Around 13,232 in-work suicides between the years 2011 and 2015 are reported by the Office of National Statistics. Of this, the construction industry accounted for 13.2% of them. 
  • Due to poor mental health, 23% are planning to leave the industry (construction workers) in the next 12 months
  • A whopping 73% of all construction workers feel that their employers did not recognise the early signs of mental health issues.
  • In 2014 alone, 454 construction workers committed suicide.

The data is shocking; the mental health crisis is prevalent in the construction industry, and raising awareness of this matter is a must.  

What are the Workplace Issues that Affects Mental Health in the Construction Industry?

The same report from Construction News shows the major contributor for the troubling mental health issues that workers suffer from:

  • Job uncertainty
  • Long hours
  • Financial pressure
  • Tight deadlines
  • Work culture
  • Working away from family
  • Poor welfare
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Late pay
  • Site safety

Organisations are making efforts to address these construction-related mental health problems but there are more that needs to be done. 

Why is Mental Health Important in the Construction Industry?

According to the National Building Specification, suffering from mental health is why employees take almost 70 million days off sick per year.  That translates to an estimated £70 billion to £100 billion per year that impacts the economy. 

But is it just about the economic impact that we must take mental health in construction more seriously? No! Mental health is essential in the construction industry because it can be infectious like any other communicable disease. The symptoms of poor mental health are not easily detected but can be passed between colleagues. 

The survivors of suicide will never get fully over the emotional hurt and pain. They have to go through life without their loved one who died by self-inflicted harm, which is difficult for anyone to endure.

Mental Health In The Construction Industry - A Cause of Alarm?

Source: Pexels

The families left behind after someone commits suicide are in an unimaginable position with many complicated emotions they must deal with on top of losing a family member or friend so cruelly early before them.

So you see, the company, the organisation must address poor mental health that transpire in the workplace and employees alike because there’s a lot at stake more than the industry suffering in revenue. 

How Can Employers Address Mental Health Issues?

What makes mental health in construction so hard to tackle is its invisibility, unlike physical illnesses where you cannot miss the obvious signs such as fever and pain. We must learn to spot the early signs of mental illness and promote a healthy work environment at the same time.

There is no single solution that works for everyone. Still, there is always something that all employers can do to help their employees, like conducting regular health assessments, offering flexible working hours (including job sharing), among others.   

The management can support their employees by attending a talk about mental health in the construction industry by experts around mental health and wellbeing. This way, they get the chance to open up their minds and see things differently regarding this sensitive issue.

They also need to do take note of the list below from CCOHS because these are the makings of a mentally healthy organisation:

  • Balance
  • Recognition & Reward
  • Organizational Culture
  • Psychological Support
  • Civility & Respect
  • Protection of Physical Safety
  • Clear Leadership & Expectations
  • Involvement & Influence
  • Psychological Competencies & Requirements
  • Engagement
  • Growth & Development
  • Workload Management
  • Psychological Protection

Provide wellness programs. Call in a mental health professional to assess how you can make changes in your company. They will be able to give you feedback that may help you avoid problems. Also, they can guide you in solving issues that have arisen already within the workplace.

Have safety talks at least once a year to inspire his or her workers to take care of their mental health by avoiding stressful situations and learning how to handle stress if ever it arises.

If possible, do not discriminate (i.e., demote) an employee suffering from mental illness because they might need more time off due to recuperation than usual employees who are free from sickness.

Talk to the employee about any concerns you have with his or her performance. He or she might be feeling uncomfortable working in your company and making matters worse by acting out when all they need is some time off from work to get better.

What Can We Do as Individuals?

We must educate, understand, and accept that mental health is an important issue in the construction industry, and we should do our best to take care of it as much as physical health. Disregard the stigma that males are not prone to stress and anxiety. 

And again, don’t be afraid to speak up if you are facing issues at work or outside of work. If you have the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, seek early help by speaking with trained professionals who understand what anxiety and depression feel like because they have been there too. Facing problems head-on will give us the power to get through it together!

Final Words

Different industries suffer different mental health issues, and the male-dominated construction industry is suffering more than ever. Both managers and employees should take advantage of resources and training available for them so that they could manage the stress involved in the job site.  Do not box yourselves, but be positive and focus on building a better construction mental health for your workers and your leadership team. 

Let us all become a positive example of those who are in search of ways to contribute to better mental health, especially for men!

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