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Written by
on 30 January 2017


Mental health in the construction industry is a serious matter.

Often overlooked, mental health remains a serious concern within the construction industry. Although the sector continues to improve the protection offered against physical injury, safeguards for employee mental wellbeing is not currently as well resourced.

The importance of mental health cannot be emphasised strongly enough. Research suggests that suicide kills far more construction workers than falls and that 91 million work days are lost every year as a result of mental health-related problems. Employers can play a significant part in helping to improve the mental wellbeing of their workers.

A new program launched recently seeks to improve the balance between physical and mental health protections. “Mates in Mind” is intended to become the industry champion for raising awareness of mental health issues in construction. The charity estimates that 6% of the UK workforce may be experiencing mental health problems at any given moment – equivalent to 350,000 construction workers.

Clearly, this is a significant issue that needs to be addressed urgently.

Building a mental health awareness program

Targeted at foremen, supervisors and line managers, the Mates in Mind program is built around a three-module course. The first module is fairly lightweight – a 45-minute discussion-based session that raises awareness and makes it OK to talk about stress and other mental pressures in the workplace.

This is followed by a more in-depth second session that helps supervisors identify colleagues who may be experiencing mental health problems and who need further support. By recognising the signs, line managers will be able to act before it is too late.

The third and final session is a two-day first aid course that addresses the question “what would you do if there was a mental-health related incident on site?”. Over two days supervisors or on-site first aiders will learn what to do if the worst does happen at work.

A program with heavyweight backing

Run as a non-profit charity, Mates in Mind has secured support from the British Safety Council and the Health on Construction Leadership Group. Further support is being provided by leading mental health bodies including Mind, MHFA England and the Samaritans.

Using the combined experience of these bodies, the Mates in Mind program offers comprehensive preparation for line managers and other professionals in the construction sector for dealing with mental health issues. These partners are also providing support services direct to construction workers, directing them to helplines where they will be able to discuss issues in confidence, and gather advice on how to deal with their mental health.

Time to take mental health issues seriously

The bodies behind Mates in Mind hope to reach 100,000 employees in this, their first year of operation. By 2025 they aim to have briefed at least three-quarters of the construction industry on mental health issues and how to deal with them.

The fact that young men are in so much danger means that mental wellbeing cannot be ignored. As responsible employers, every construction firm has a duty to educate themselves on identifying and dealing with the dangers – and Mates in Mind is a great place to start.

For more help and advice about improving your on-site mental health protection provisions, please get in touch.

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A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter and Linkedin.

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