Mental Health within the Construction Industry

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. 

Only in the last few years has the conversation on mental health come forward in many areas and industries and with that the social stigma surrounding mental health is gradually fading. Within the construction industry it is taking a longer time to filter through. In the construction industry physical safety is considered a main priority sector but mental health is less commonly considered.

In honour of National Time to Talk day on February 4th 2021, we wanted to discuss how to better support mental health within the construction industry. Reports show that a massive 73% of all construction workers feel that their employers were not apt at recognising or understanding early signs of mental health troubles or offering support.

The first step is being able to identify the signs that someone may be struggling. Whilst mental health can manifest itself in many ways here are some early signs to look out for:

  • Increased lateness, absenteeism 
  • Easily distracted and cognitive slowing
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Isolation from peers
  • Agitation and increased conflict among co-workers
  • Increased feelings of being overwhelmed

Once you are able to recognise the early signs, the next step in how to approach the situation. Here are some tips to help support those who may need it:

  • Create a safe environment – The working environment is very important, both a mental environment and a physically safe environment. Working in construction is by nature physical and often dangerous. Not feeling safe in your everyday environment can increase stress and anxiety leading to mental health problems.Ensure risks are evaluated on site regularly and your team are given the correct protection equipment.
  • Keep your team in the loop – Job security is one of the most significant causes of mental health problems within the industry. The pandemic has caused widespread anxiety related to site shutdowns and so being clear and keeping employees up to date, even if just to say we are awaiting confirmation, will help ease anxiety and uncertainty.
  • Check in – While this may be difficult due to the government safety guidelines prohibiting face-to-face meetings, you can still reach out to team members on other platforms such as video platforms and even just a phone call or quick message to check in. 
  • Allow employees appropriate breaks –  Provide your team with designated areas for rest and relaxation, a place to switch off from the workplace stress and take a minute to regroup.
  • Make sure your staff aware about any support programmes – Just as everyone works and learns differently, everyone also copes with their health differently. Not everyone is comfortable talking about mental health at work, so the Lighthouse Club and many other charities are available, dedicated to the wellbeing of construction workers and their families.
  • Build a Support System – Educate your team to recognise signs that colleagues might need some support and get a conversation started. Many may be going through the same thing but not knowing it, creating a team wide chat may encourage others to realise they are not alone and can reach out on those also in a similar position.

There is no one solution to approaching mental health but ensuring your team know they are supported is crucial. Normalising the conversation is a step forward in increasing mental health awareness and removing the stigma. It is time that as an industry we really try to commit our businesses to not only protecting the physical wellness of our team but also their mental wellbeing. 

There are many charities available for those struggling such as The Construction Industry Helpline app, CALMS helpline and Mates In Mind.

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