Approaching Mental Health In The Construction Industry

Approaching Mental Health In The Construction Industry: Increased Awareness, or Increased Openness?

Working in construction is challenging.

Tradespeople face long hours to meet client schedules. They may spend days or weeks away from home. Complex logistics, stressful shifts and higher-risk environments are all part and parcel of it, for those in the business of building the modern world.

But for many tradespeople, especially in smaller enterprises, there’s the added uncertainty of finding regular work and maintaining financial security – all of which can become a constant strain on mental well-being. Paired with the inability to discuss issues openly, their problems may only compound.

Slowly but surely, construction workers’ attitudes to mental health are changing. But top names in the industry agree that more must be done to increase awareness around mental health issues – particularly among men.

Male workers in construction continue beneath a pervading stigma, and a widespread silence, surrounding the subject of mental health.

The consequences of this silence can be tragic. The risk of suicide among low-skilled male construction workers stands at 3.7 times the national average, according to the Office for National Statistics. 

But there seems to be a disconnect between workers’ awareness of mental health issues and the individual action required to address them. According to an industry survey conducted by Construction News, 81% of their respondents felt that a stigma is indeed attached to mental health.

The same survey found that 30% of its respondents “had taken time off work due to mental health issues”, but that “Of these respondents, a greater proportion this year said they had hidden the real reason for their absence from their employer (63 per cent, up from 60 per cent).”

In summary: almost a third of the 1300+ people surveyed had taken time off work due to their mental health. Well over half of those same people felt unable to say so openly – while almost everyone taking part in the survey acknowledged that a stigma existed around issues of mental health.

What can we draw from this data? That almost everyone recognises the problem, but that few people will speak it out loud? Maybe we can afford to be a little more optimistic than that.

Perhaps there’s evidence here for a groundswell of feeling surrounding mental health issues in the construction business. What if awareness isn’t the issue, but instead openness in the work culture?

…What if a change in construction’s mental health statistics is only an honest conversation away?

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