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Mental health report puts spotlight on construction

Construction has been cited as an industry that suffers from higher than average mental health issues in a government-commissioned report.

The review – Thriving at Work – was commissioned by prime minister Theresa May in January to investigate how mental health can be improved in the workplace.

The report, conducted by Lord Dennis Stevenson and mental health charity Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer, found that 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs each year.

It also found poor mental health costs employers up to £42bn a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of up to £99bn.

The report made 40 recommendations, including urging employers to create a mental health at work plan and encouraging open conversations. 

Construction was cited as an industry in which male workers were 35 per cent more likely to take their own lives, with a Willmott Dixon employee contributing an account of the strain felt by workers throughout the sector.

This supports research that Construction News conducted into the issue earlier this year. 

The results of CN’s Mind Matters survey revealed one in four construction workers have considered taking their own life, which rose to one in three among junior members of staff and graduates.

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In the Stevenson-Farmer report, Willmott Dixon senior health and safety manager Shaun Atkins said: “Pressures vary significantly across different industries.

“In the predominately male construction industry, rates of suicide are particularly high, specific pressures include physically hard work, cold and harsh working environments, low pay, long hours, time pressures, job insecurity and a ‘macho’ culture.”

He added: “All of these things along with significant periods away from home can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness and poor mental health.”

Construction charity Mates in Mind was also mentioned in the report as an example of industry groups helping to tackle the issue of poor mental health.

The charity welcomed the review and called for further government engagement.

Chair Steve Hails said: “Mates in Mind welcomes the recommendations set out in the Stephenson-Farmer report.

“With the direct support and financial investment from the UK construction industry and the British Safety Council, it has already started to make inroads into tackling the issues that the report so starkly highlights.”

He added: “In working with construction companies, Mates in Mind recognises that businesses need to be enabled to do more, not simply being given more to do.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the government in taking these recommendations forward.”

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