Breaking Down the Stigma of Mental Health in Construction

It is widely acknowledged that mental health is a serious issue within the construction sector. The statistics are startling: suicide kills more construction workers than falls and over a quarter (26%) of construction industry workers thought about taking their own lives in 2019. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

Covid-19 has only intensified matters as the way we live, work and interact with those closest to us continues to be affected. It has never been more important for companies to provide a line of frequent, open communication that enables employees to communicate effectively and engage in meaningful conversations. This is something we’ve always been committed to here at Pexhurst, keeping employee mental health and wellbeing at the forefront of the business agenda and providing peer support sources like our workplace Mental Health Champions: Penny Dew and Alan Bridge.

Most recently, we partnered with Safety Services UK, a health and safety consultancy, to deliver mental health awareness sessions to our site teams across all of our sites. As part of the ‘Toolbox Talks’, health and safety adviser Bejay Makwana provided guidance on the range of support that is available as well as how site workers can look after their mental health and open up to others using real life stories from the construction industry.

Anonymous surveys taken following the talks themselves show the response has been great. From one Site Manager who said: “I think it is much needed and is a cracking idea, it’s well overdue in the building game. The issue is that everyone on a building site is ‘macho’ and doesn’t want to share any issues they may have in this environment.”

To another: “The speaker who I have known professionally for many years even told us about his battle with depression which was something I was unaware of and this made the importance of mental health more real.”

And finally: “People seemed to take a lot on board from the talk and I was surprised at how engaged everyone was. It was shocking to hear some of the statistics regarding suicide rates and stress in the industry. Mental health needs to have a higher priority on building sites as when you work in construction, mental health and wellbeing is often seen as a ‘get over it and get on with it’ problem. We should definitely roll out these toolbox talks perhaps once or twice a year.”

Health and Safety adviser Bejay Makwana added “By carrying out discussions regarding mental health in predominantly male orientated environments, we can gradually remove the taboo associated and encouraging such conversations can provide support to those affected and establishes a healthier workplace. It’s great to see businesses such as Pexhurst taking the first steps to address these potential issues, especially following worries, isolation and potential trauma caused by Covid-19.”

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