You might not think it, but one of the worst industries to be in when it comes to mental health is the construction industry. Despite all the stereotypes that might whizz around your head when we say ‘construction worker’, they are some of UK’s least supported workers, despite us relying on them to put rooves over our heads. Statistically one of the worst in terms of workers suffering from mental health issues, and seeing one of the highest suicide rates per industry in the UK, the construction industry is the perfect example of how differently society view physical and mental health. And today we want to shine a light on it.
What Is The Issue?
In construction, physical health is seen as the most important thing. There are signs everywhere reminding people to wear safety equipment. Hundreds of hours are devoted to safety training, which gets repeated at regular intervals to make sure it really sinks in. There are safety talks given on site, details of manual handling and lifting techniques to ensure no one is injured and everyone can keep working.
But there is a piece of the health puzzle missing from all of this safety talk – the mental safety side of things. It seems the main issue in the construction industry is that it is male dominated, and the perception that the men who work within it are ‘tough blokes’. In world where we are still taught ‘boys don’t cry’ from a young age, this is a very harmful perception to hold, and makes it so much more difficult for men who are struggling to ask for help, or to talk about their feelings and mental health. But here’s the thing – construction workers want that support structure. Recent surveys suggest that 64% of construction workers want better physical and mental health and wellbeing support from their employers, with calls coming from within for the industry as a whole to have a better awareness of mental health. And to take action to eradicate the stigma from it.
Let’s put this in perspective here, because until you see the raw numbers laid out in black and white, it can be difficult to understand the real scope of the problem.
- Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45. However, male site workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average male in the UK.
- Suicide kills more construction workers than falls every year.
- Depression and anxiety have overtaken musculoskeletal disorders in construction workers.
- According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 13,232 in-work suicides between 2011 and 2015. The construction industry accounted for 13.2% of them, despite only accounting for 7% of the total UK workforce.
- 23% of construction workers are considering leaving the industry in the next 12 months due to poor mental health.
- 73% of all construction workers feel that their employers did not understand or recognise the early signs of poor mental health, or offer any support.
- According to the National Building Specification, mental health accounts for people taking almost 70 million days off sick per year. This costs the UK economy an estimated £70 billion to £100 billion per year.
- In 2014, 454 construction workers committed suicide.
It’s no wonder mental health in the construction industry is known as ‘the silent epidemic’.
So What Can Be Done?
So yes, the state of the construction industry and their approach to mental health is bleak, to say the least. But what can be done about it?
Well, for one, we need to work on removing the stigma around mental health problems in this country in general, but the construction industry in particular. There have been great leaps made in removing the negative stigma surrounding talking about mental health over the last few years, and we’re now seeing a much greater acceptance rate, more people seeking treatment and actually talking about their mental health as part of the general discussion. Unfortunately, this has not been true for men in general, and the construction industry (or any male-dominated field) in particular. A great initiative was launched late last year called Building Mental Health, which we encourage anyone in construction to get involved with.
Secondly, employers and employees in the industry need education. They need to be able to recognise the early signs of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems within their workers and co-workers, and know what support is available and how to access it. This can be done through new training initiatives, working closely with mental health support services to provide the information and resources that could save their employees lives.
And finally, employers in the construction industry need to be willing to provide real and practical support to their workers. Site workers might not feel comfortable speaking with their GP or their friends about their mental health problems, but if programmes were put in place within their company and they were encouraged to use them, they might see a better result. After all, 64% of construction workers want their employers to provide more support in this area, and those employers need to sit up and listen.
What that support looks like might vary from company to company and even person to person. That’s why at The Holistic Healthcare Group we provide tailored employee wellbeing packages specifically designed for the construction industry. With our help, you can offer your site workers a wide range of holistic and complementary therapies and treatments to detect, treat and manage poor mental health, from workshops on managing stress to hypnotherapy, counselling, yoga and mindfulness. We tailor our packages to meet your needs, and provide the best outcomes for your employees. To find out more, just get in touch with us today and book your free consultation.