If we treated mental wellbeing as seriously as physical safety we would not need to draw attention to the problem, sadly that is not the case

Bill Hill greyscale

The year we cancel Mental Health Awareness Week (18-14 May) will be a truly significant one. It will be cancelled because ensuring the mental health of our workforce will be treated as importantly and come as naturally as looking after their physical safety.

It will come at a time when everyone in our industry is aware of the importance of good mental wellbeing, every operation has a mental health policy and the suicide rate in construction has been significantly reduced.

However, according to the recent CIOB Understanding Mental Health in the Built Envionment, based on a survey carried out before the covid-19 outbreak, the cancellation of Mental Health Awareness Week will not be any time soon and we have a long way to go.

By following these simple steps, organisations can develop a positive mental health culture in their organisation with very little cost

We need to accelerate and amplify our efforts to improve our workforce wellbeing. By following a simple five-step guideline which forms part of the industry’s Building Mental Health programme, any company can embrace the change without considerable financial outlay.

  • Step 1: Management sign up to treating mental health as a priority in their operation
  • Step 2: Everyone in the operation including all subcontractors have access to an Employee Assistance Programme. If they haven’t got one they can use our charity’s Construction Industry Helpline and supporting helpline App which are free.
  • Step 3: Deliver regular on-site toolbox talks to ‘start the conversation’. These are available free to download from the Building Mental Health website.
  • Step 4: All ‘people managers’ should attend an online or on-site mental health awareness course. (about £50 per delegate)
  • Step 5: Every operation has an on site mental health first aider in the same ratio as physical first aiders (about £150 per delegate)

By following these simple steps, organisations can develop a positive mental health culture in their organisation with very little cost. The question you have to ask yourself is what is the cost of doing nothing when others are trying to make construction a more attractive career choice for the next generation?

However, if all else fails my three golden rules to promote better mental health can be adopted easily.

First, always ask twice. You don’t always get the true answer first time around. Secondly, seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Listen and don’t judge, which is easier said than done. Finally, always be kind. There is no reason to be unkind even if you have to deliver a tough message; it can be done in a humane way.

These three golden rules are easy to say but difficult to follow but if we all tried then the world would be a better place and Mental Health Awareness Week a thing of the past.

For more information visit www.buildingmentalhealth.net

Bill Hill, CEO of the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity