Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is taking place this week from 9th – 15th May. To shed light on mental health in construction, we have taken the initiative to create Mental Health Staff Champions to support wellbeing within the workplace. Here, Finance Director, Penny Dew discusses being a Mental Health Champion at Pexhurst.
Staff wellbeing is an important aspect of our wellbeing initiatives. Penny qualified as a Mental Health First Aider through a course with St. John’s ambulance in 2018. The course taught in-depth skills for providing first aid to people who may be experiencing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. Penny now acts as a Mental Health Champion at Pexhurst. Since achieving her qualification, Penny has worked towards adapting the workplace to accommodate the wellbeing of staff.
Pexhurst acknowledges that construction is a demanding profession, and that workers are vulnerable to its effects. Construction work is typically characterised by long hours, long commutes and the pressure to complete on time and within budget, which can negatively impact employees. Moreover, as a predominantly male industry, the ‘macho’ culture within the sector can prevent workers from seeking help; causing many to suffer in silence. According to the Chartered Institute of Building, the industry tragically has some of the worst rates of suicide in the UK, with male construction workers being 2.7 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person.
With this in mind, we are actively trying to encourage an open and honest conversation around mental health and wellbeing. Penny comments: “Traditionally, the construction sector has prioritised Health and Safety Onsite, which is incredibly important. However, we are also aware that mental health is a very important factor of wellbeing. As a Mental Health Champion, my objective is to keep an eye on colleagues and offer support when needed. We don’t want to pressure colleagues to open up, but instead we are creating a supportive environment where employees know that they can speak to us if things are getting too much for them.”
One way that Pexhurst has been creating a culture of openness and support is by utilising its ‘Toolbox Talks’ across all live sites to highlight mental health. ‘Toolbox Talks’ are talks on all aspects of health and safety within construction, which Pexhurst has used as an opportunity to talk about workers’ mental health. The added benefit of this support is that it is not only for directly employed staff, but subcontractors and the wider supply chain who are on site as well.
However, Penny states that the main way in which Pexhurst supports its staff’s mental health is enabling a cultural shift which destigmatises mental health issues. “It may not seem like a lot, but keeping an eye on colleagues, checking in with them, and making the time to chat with them at the coffee machine actually has a substantial impact on staff. It allows them to feel supported and lets them know that they’re not being a burden in any way. Employees know that being a Mental Health Champion is part of my role alongside Finance and HR, and that they can talk to me.”
We look forward to maintaining and improving our safe and inclusive working environment, both onsite and offsite, ensuring the wellbeing of our staff and the wider supply chain.
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