Mental Health Awareness Week – Highlighting the Role Mental Health Plays within the Industry

mental health

The construction industry lifestyle is undoubtedly challenging both mentally and physically. With long and demanding working hours, working on site for weeks at a time and the lingering unease within the industry due to the pandemic. 26% of construction industry professionals have thought about taking their own lives in 2019, even before the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the industry and these statistics have only risen since then.

In many industries, the social stigma surrounding mental health is fading. Unfortunately, the construction industry still has some catching up to do. Within the construction industry, physical safety is considered a main priority sector yet mental health is less commonly considered. In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, 10-16th May 2021, Plant Planet Careers wanted to address the role gender differences play in mental health within this male dominated industry.

Despite significant improvements in the safety of the construction workforce in recent years, mental health and wellbeing has become a silent crisis. For construction, this issue runs through the industry, affecting decision – making right through from the office boardrooms through to physical site in both men and women.

For many, employment provides an individual with a sense of achievement, On average, a person will spend 33% of their time at their place of work, and that means having a work environment that contributes to good mental health is vital.

However, the Thriving at Work review suggests that work can also have a negative impact on an employee’s mental health. Within the construction industry, job security is not guaranteed. Job security is one of the most significant causes of mental health problems within the industry. Many workers wonders where and when the next job will be coming from. This instability can impact many construction workers mental health.

According to the ONS definition of construction, on-site work is characterised by a labour workforce which consists of 82% males and 18% female. Male site workers in construction are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male.

In England, women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problem and of those are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders. In 2018, Unite conducted an online survey featuring female members within the construction sector. The survey revealed that employers are failing to make workplace adjustments for adequate welfare facilities, such as clean toilets, shower facilities, and supplies of feminine hygiene products and bins. Alongside the lack of welfare amenities 73% of women featured within the survey also struggled with their mental health surrounding a healthy work/life balance.

While there are some social and economic factors that can contribute to putting women at a greater risk of poor mental health compared to men, it is believed that women are far more likely to talk about their mental health, and to seek support than men. 

When we look at the statistics for men, we see around 1 in 8 will experience a common mental health problem. Those who are employed in male-dominated industries and occupations may be particularly vulnerable to developing poor mental health, which may go unrecognised and untreated due to the macho culture that has developed throughout the sector over the years. While many of the same difficulties are experienced by all, some difficulties and influences on mental health can be connected to poor male mental health. 

Societal expectations and the traditional idea of how men are expected to behave may play a role in how active men will be in talking about their mental health and seeking support. Typically, the view of hyper-masculinity prevents men from openly talking about their mental health. 

Construction has been known to have an associated ‘macho’ culture, and this continues to occur within the sector. Allowing for men to be far less likely to open up about any issues and adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms that may prevent them from seeking help. 

There is no one solution to approaching mental health but knowing there are many charities who are there to support those in times of a crisis. The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity alongside their Construction Industry Helpline are always there to ensure no worker or their family, feel alone in a crisis.

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