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Mental health: Enough is enough

I read an article in Construction News recently and it contained a statistic that stopped me in my tracks.

I cannot get this out of my head and this blog has been writing itself in my head since then.

The statistic was that construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than by falling from height.

That statistic is an absolute disgrace and it’s about time we faced up to this alarming truth. Isn’t it time for us to work together and to be there for each other? After all, we are all human beings underneath those hardhats.

Expressing experiences

The sad truth of our industry is it is predominantly male and men are more prone to suicide because they typically find it hard to express their feelings. I have personally and professionally experienced and witnessed the stresses and strains that are all too common in our industry, which can have an adverse impact on our mental health.

As a young man in the construction industry, I witnessed my father’s contracting company fail because people wouldn’t pay him when he was due to be paid. The effect it had on my dad, my mum and our family was horrific and led me to where I am today – namely, getting contractors out of awful situations that they really shouldn’t be in. 

“Do we honestly want to see that other person homeless or worse as a result of the choices we make?”

Much of the built environment is created with health and well-being in mind. Yet paradoxically, we cannot create an environment that nurtures skills and talent, that rewards hard work and doesn’t lead to endless disputes, distress and sadly, in some cases, death – either by suicide or as a result of years and years of stress.

Question of choice

There are decision-makers out there who aren’t yet aware of the impact their choices have on the mental health of their teams and their subcontractors.

Why aren’t we all doing the right thing? Do we honestly want to see that other person homeless or worse as a result of the choices we make? Because let’s face it: one of those choices is non-payment of invoices and this can lead to job losses, family breakdown, homelessness and, in the worst-case scenario, death.

Our industry cannot function without two basic ingredients: people and trust.

I have wanted to write this article for many years, but I was honestly worried that people might view me as odd or weak. Seeing Neil Martin’s courage in writing his article in CN and reading a friend’s story who survived suicide and is now cycling around the world to raise awareness made me realise I was worrying about nothing.

Let’s get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health. Your brain is like any other part of your body and sometimes it needs a little help or work to ensure it performs as we want or need it to.

I see many campaigns from construction firms about going home in one piece; maybe it’s time we added a bit about returning to work in one piece.

Yosof Ewing is the CEO of Ewing ADR

Mental health survey

Take CN’s mental health survey and help shape the construction industry’s atitutude towards mental health:

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