Every working day, two construction workers take their own life. Yes, you read that statistic correctly. And nearly 400,000 working days are lost every year due to poor mental health. Every company has a moral obligation to embrace and develop a culture to improve the industry’s mental health. It was encouraging to see so much positive activity around mental health awareness week, but we need to ensure that this is sustained.
Recent research has put the mental health of our industry as a high priority. The problem seems to be that many feel that the subject matter is too complex and either don’t know how to start a programme of education or in some cases are concerned that they will be overwhelmed by the issues that may arise.
The Considerate Constructors Scheme has already instigated a points structure to recognise the importance of good mental health on site and it can be expected that in future, all client tenders will require evidence of initiatives relating to improving mental health. There is even talk of legislation to govern the number of Mental Health First Aiders in proportion to the number of workers on larger sites. If that’s not convincing enough, the potential productivity gains to be made by reducing the number of days off work due to stress, anxiety or depression gives a sound commercial imperative. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience out there, but it can be difficult to pull all the information that you want together. So how can you get started?
With support from our industry experts, we have developed an online portal of information about mental health, www.buildingmentalhealth.net to help you start and develop the process of building a positive mental health culture in your organisation. The contributors are simply a group of volunteers who have shared their industry knowledge and experience and pooled together the latest thinking and best practice. From tool box talks that you can download through to advice on how to access mental health training, all the information is free of charge, copyright free and can be tailored to your needs.
5 Steps to better mental health
- Senior management commitment. To undertake an improvement project of this nature it is essential to demonstrate a commitment to improve the welfare of the workforce.
- Adopt an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). There are many schemes offering a range of benefits for employees and most offer a confidential helpline to discuss mental health issues and offer counselling. If you don’t have the resources to introduce your own EAP scheme then order some Construction Industry Helpline cards and posters from the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity or the Considerate Constructors Scheme.
- Prepare a ‘Tool Box’ talk to raise awareness of good mental health. The presentation needs to be under one hour long and should be interactive. Our objective is to get our workforce to talk to each other and recognize when somebody is struggling.
- In-depth mental health training for people managers. This training is often a half-day course and helps identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Currently, the only one accredited by the CITB is the Mental Health First Aid England course. Companies registered for the levy can claim back the material costs.
- Mental health first aiders. At some point in the future there may well be legislation to ensure a set number of mental health first aiders on site in proportion to the number of workers. A ratio of one mental health first aider to every one hundred workers has been suggested.
If you can complete the above steps then you will have a robust mental health programme. But, there is always room for improvement and the best practice here is to share your knowledge and experiences and look out for other company’s best practice. Again, the Considerate Constructors Scheme offers free access to their best practice hub and have a range of case studies on this subject.
It is vitally important that, as an industry we all do something to improve the mental health of our workforce. Let’s shoulder this moral responsibility and start making a difference today.
More detailed information about building positive mental health in your organisation can be found at www.BuildingMentalHealth.net/resources.