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You need to take action on mental health

When you first read the results of CN’s 2018 mental health survey, you would be forgiven for thinking things are getting worse.

But I was reassured to see that two-thirds of our survey respondents felt mental health awareness had improved over the past 12 months.

It’s easy to point to the problems this industry faces, but this is a clear demonstration of why CN’s Mind Matters campaign is important and shows that companies are talking about the issue and taking it seriously.

Mental health is now being discussed on sites and in boardrooms across this industry. If someone from outside the industry asked questions about how construction companies were protecting their employees’ mental health, we would all be able to give examples of good work being done.

It’s encouraging to see companies like Skanska taking action in light of the results of last year’s survey. Chief executive Gregor Craig tells CN this week he was struck by how 2017’s findings suggested mental health issues were particularly prevalent among younger people.

The company now does mental health training as part of all its graduate and apprenticeship induction programmes.

Mr Craig talks about why he is taking the issue so seriously. However, there remains a significant discrepancy between board-level and junior staff: more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of junior employees said they had experienced mental health issues, compared with 50 per cent of directors.

Are employers making sure they are hearing from the people who are most vulnerable? Construction workers benefit from family atmospheres at work – few other industries can share common team goals akin to building a bridge, school or office.

On the countless sites I’ve visited, yes there are tensions over programmes and management, but those on site often put their lives in each other’s hands. They are more than just colleagues; they are family.

They trust each other to keep the wider team safe. Mental health should be a part of that. The survey shows 63 per cent of people who have taken time off work due to mental health issues hid the reason for their absence from their boss.

And 65 per cent of people working at companies with fewer than 100 employees have experienced mental health issues.

These results show us that the industry is listening, but also highlight those – from junior staff to smaller companies – who are perhaps the most at risk.

Last year we said it was time to talk about mental health. Now, one year later, talking is not enough; it’s time to take action on mental health.

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