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Shadow mental health minister demands action plan for construction

Shadow cabinet minister for mental health Barbara Keeley has urged government to act after “disturbing” new research into mental health in the construction industry.

Ms Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, said research into the issue conducted by Construction News and a report last week by Randstad has revealed “deeply worrying trends in the mental health of construction workers”.

HR services provider Randstad revealed that a quarter of construction workers said they were considering leaving the industry within the next year.

Among the reasons cited for this were high levels of stress and challenges in striking a work / life balance.

In May, Construction News revealed the shocking results of its Mind Matters mental health survey. One in four construction workers have considered taking their own life, which rose to one in three among junior members of staff and graduates.

Ms Keeley said: “It is disturbing that a quarter of construction workers have thought of taking their own life; suicides in the industry are higher than other trades or professions; and reported mental health problems are twice the national average.”

She said more needs to be done to understand the “specific factors associated within the construction industry” that can affect mental health such as long working hours and periods away from home.

Ms Keeley demanded the government to “plan action” with the industry to tackle the issue.

She said: “More work should now be done with employers in the construction industry and I call on government ministers to look at these findings and to plan action with the industry to improve mental health support for people working in it.”

In March, data released from the Office for National Statistics revealed 1,419 people working in skilled construction building trades took their own lives between 2011 and 2015.

This is more than three times the number of suicides by those working as corporate managers or directors and of those working in sales occupations, and more than 10 times those working in health and social care.

Conservative MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis and mental health campaigner James Morris agreed that the industry and government need to work together to tackle the issue.

Speaking to CN, Mr Morris said: “There needs to be a partnership between government and relevant industry bodies: government can play a role in raising awareness of the issue.”

He said incentives for companies and industry to start taking this issue more seriously should be explored. Mr Morris added CN’s survey is making the government more aware of the issue in construction and “pulls out particular issues in the industry that need to be addressed”.

In addition, he said more needs to be done to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the sector.

He added: “We need to make more people feel comfortable about talking about mental health.”

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