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Shining a light on mental health in construction

The old adage “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” is never truer than in terms of our health.

Many of us take our health for granted, assuming it will always be there, not realising the importance of sustaining a healthy lifestyle as future insurance against illness.

With mental health a hot topic in the UK’s media at the moment and something which is having a huge impact on the construction industry, the Considerate Constructors Scheme has published a new ‘Spotlight on… mental health’ initiative.

This focus on mental health aims to raise awareness of how it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnicity, causing both personal and work-related stress, as well as anxiety and depression.

With increasing pressures and demands on the industry’s historically predominant male workforce, men may tend to dismiss stress, anxiety or depression.

They are also less likely to talk about problems, or recognise serious issues that may be impacting upon, or being caused by their work environments.

In our increasingly pressurised industry, tougher deadlines, heavy workloads, long working hours and lengthy periods of family separation can all potentially lead to poor mental health.

An organisation’s biggest asset is its workforce, so it is really important to look after employee wellbeing.

The recent ‘Good Day at Work’ Annual Report for 2014/2015, focusing on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, discovered that one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

It also found that stigma is one of the biggest challenges in the workplace, with 40 per cent of employers viewing workers with mental health issues as a ‘significant risk’.

Perhaps even more worrying, it found that only two in 10 companies have an official mental health policy actually in place.

We know that more and more companies are taking steps to implement measures to help combat mental health problems; but there is still room for improvement. In many cases the issue is addressed as part of a wider health and wellbeing topic, while specific issues become watered down or generalised.

Employees and employers need to be encouraged to recognise the problem, offer support and guidance, raise awareness and ensure that people do not feel ashamed or embarrassed about mental health issues.

Included in the Scheme’s Code of Considerate Practice, which every registered site, company and supplier is required to adhere to, is a section which covers the health and wellbeing of the workforce.

At the Scheme, we’re constantly looking for examples as to how companies are delivering best practice in this area, welcoming new examples and ideas on the Scheme’s new Best Practice Hub.

By sharing best practice in this area on our new online portal, we hope to improve the way in which mental health is dealt with, by leading by example.

The Scheme has also recently partnered with the Construction Industry Helpline who provide support to people in the construction industry through difficult times.

Funded by The Lighthouse Club, the helpline can be contacted 24/7 on the confidential number 0845 605 1956.

If you would like to know more, visit the Scheme’s ‘Spotlight on…mental health’ feature.

Paul Robson is director of the Considerate Constructors Scheme

 

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