Mental health isn’t something we can solve with half-measures and isolated approaches
We live in a society in which the stresses of work, on top of those in our personal lives, are covered more and more widely, yet our industry is worse than most others. To give one example, according to Office for National Statistics figures, in 2017 suicide rates among construction workers were more than triple the national average.
We are not blind to this, and I truly believe we have taken great steps in recent years to react to it. However, just because we’re now taking action doesn’t necessarily mean we’re taking the right action.
Reacting isn’t enough. We have to find a way to tackle the root causes of mental health problems in our industry
It can be difficult to piece things together if you don’t start with a clear approach and right now, we don’t have this. While I’ve said we have taken great steps to react to the issue of mental health, the problem is, reacting isn’t enough. We have to find a way to tackle the root causes of mental health problems in our industry, rather than just helping individuals as and when they need it.
New voices: Why my generation can do something about mental health, by Dermot Mitchell, Morgan Sindall
As businesses, we therefore have to be proactive in trying to change this. If we don’t educate our staff about mental health awareness they are far less likely to understand their crucial role in helping co-workers and reducing the problem. It’s about instilling the knowledge that they are in the best position to be able to spot when something is wrong and teaching them how to react to it.
Arrange mental health awareness training for all staff, to encourage them to both look out for each other and for themselves. Offer the opportunity to become a mental health first aider. Show that mental health awareness is not just the responsibility of middle or senior management – we all have our part to play.
We can’t overestimate the importance of this to the future of construction. We work in a diverse, exciting industry – one which affects people’s everyday lives more prominently than any other. We are, as we should be, proud of that. But this is a black mark against our name which must be removed.
This isn’t something we can solve with half-measures and isolated approaches. It needs a more joined-up strategy, one which seriously considers how we tackle the causes of mental health issues within our industry, rather than just the effects. If we’re going to solve this, we have to get out in front of it and solve it together.
Kevin O’Connor, head of social responsibility and inclusion at Durkan