Band of Builders breaks down taboo about mental health

Roofing contractors are being urged to get involved with the ‘Big Brew’, starting on 1 October, which is a new national campaign to address the mental health crisis in the construction sector.

The campaign comes as the current suicide rate of UK construction workers is estimated to be as high as two people every day. UK construction workers are also nearly three times more likely to die by suicide than their counterparts in other industries.

Construction charity Band of Builders (BoB), which established the Big Brew, is organising a range of events on construction sites and at builders’ merchants to encourage the industry to discuss mental health issues and break down the stigma.

Resideo (through its Honeywell Home brand), Jewson, DeWalt and JW Grant are supporters of the campaign and have already pledged to host events throughout October.

Figures from the Health and Safety Executive have found that in the UK alone, more than 400,000 working days were lost to mental health issues in 2018, with mental health issues costing the sector approximately £37 billion every year.

What’s more, a survey in 2019 conducted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) found that 90% of construction managers said they had struggled with their mental health.

Peter Cape, leader of the Big Brew at BoB, said: “It’s so important that members of the construction community look out for each other, including talking about mental health or looking for the tell-tale signs that fellow roofers may be struggling – and what better way to do it than over a brew, especially a big one.”

He continued: “We are all acutely aware of the mental health crisis within construction. Suicide rates in the sector were already at one per day before the COVID pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, and it’s widely accepted that these have worsened to closer to two per day.

“At BoB, we see the struggles of our colleagues within our community on a regular basis, and see peer-to-peer support as vital to addressing this crisis. That’s where the Big Brew comes in. By encouraging people to do such a basic thing – sharing a brew – we want to create a space where tradespeople and others in the sector can share experiences, break down taboos around mental health and support one another.”

The National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) is backing the idea with James Talman, chief executive of the Federation, saying: “Ensuring the mental well-being of those working in our industry has never been more critical. Employers have an important role to play here, and so we encourage roofing contractors to put on a ‘Big Brew’ for their teams and have an open conversation about mental health.”

What the Big Brew will fund
Anyone can host a Big Brew – roofers wishing to register to host their own events can click here to find out more. Hosting a Big Brew will offer a place for people to meet and share a cuppa. It will also help raise funds to provide a range of mental health support services aimed at members of the UK construction industry and focused on supply chain companies, small businesses and the self-employed, who were recently discovered to be at higher risk than those working in larger organisations.

These support services will include:

  • Funding dedicated industry mental health support lines
  • The provision of interim counselling services to support members of the UK construction industry
  • The provision of counselling support for BoB beneficiaries and volunteers
  • The provision of 300 free mental health awareness course places for small and medium-sized businesses and the self-employed. BoB will also work with fellow construction charity The Lighthouse Club and partners on the Beacons campaign, which aims to increase the provision of, and access to, regional peer support groups

Know your wellbeing STATS
Peter added that, as part of the campaign, the Big Brew will encourage tradespeople to remember their wellbeing STATS and support one another:

S – Support each other
T – Talk about it
A – Always ask twice
T – Take it seriously
S – Stop the cycle.

He said: “Wellbeing STATS around mental health are vital, and we hope that the Big Brew will be a way for roofers to start opening up, even just a little bit, because we all need to do everything we can to start reversing the mental health crisis in the construction sector.”

You can support the Big Brew at https://www.bandofbuilders.org/the-big-brew/.