To kick off Mental Health Awareness week a data analyst apprentice at Balfour Beatty tells his story 

This week to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Ben Jewers-Pettinger, data analyst apprentice at Balfour Beatty and Prince’s Trust ambassador, talks about his previous struggles with mental health issues, his growing confidence and how his youth ambassador role helps share inspiring stories.

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You’ve been working over the last few years to encourage people to talk openly about mental health. Tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far

Born and raised in Yorkshire, I’ve always been passionate about technology. I knew from a young age that I was interested in perusing a career in the industry – it excited me, and I wanted to explore it further.

But having battled mental health issues for most of my life and having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety at around 17 years old, I failed most of my second year sixth form exams and subsequently struggled to find employment.

It wasn’t until I found the Prince’s Trust programme, that I was finally able to gain the confidence I needed to get my foot on the career ladder. I was inducted into Balfour Beatty as an administration assistant, but my mentors took the time to understand my ultimate aim, and helped me turn my passion into reality, and offered me a position as a data analyst apprentice.

How has Balfour Beatty helped you along your mental health journey?

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Balfour Beatty has made leaps and bounds in creating a workplace that treats mental health like physical health – it’s really important to us. Since joining around two years ago, I’ve been working hard to try and learn as much as I can from Balfour Beatty. I’ve learnt so much here and it has given me the confidence needed not to worry so much in the workplace.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that I’m careless with work or blind to consequences, but I feel content to experiment, learn and take a slow afternoon if my head isn’t ‘in the game’. They’ve been so supportive, and I’ve really been given some room to try and find a rhythm that works for me, on my terms.

Can you talk about your youth ambassador role?

The Prince’s Trust gave me the opportunity to turn my life around and gave me the tools I needed to tackle my confidence issues and mental health challenges head on. When I took on the position of youth ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, I felt it was in my power to help someone else make that journey – I felt it was almost my moral obligation to do so.

Ultimately, I want to help build a world that can cater to, help, and accept everyone for who they are. That is certainly not limited to, but definitely includes all of those who struggle with their mental health.

I am so grateful that through my role I have had the opportunity to share my story and speak to so many varied and interesting people. I’ve even met people and seen places I never expected – I was even invited to St James Palace to speak at an event attended by HRH The Prince of Wales!

Do you have any top tips for those who find it difficult adapting to the workplace due to mental health issues?

If you haven’t already, try and make sure you understand what’s happening to your mental health. When people mention mental health people tend to think of depression, anxiety, but there are far more facets to mental health than this.

If you are generally unsure what you’re experiencing or need clarity, reach out to a GP. Understanding yourself is the first step in building a life that you can thrive in and knowing what to ask for in the workplace.

The best advice I can share, as vague as it is, is to love yourself – when dealing with these issues it can be easy to blame yourself, put yourself down, but it’s often untrue and always unhelpful.

Be true to yourself and embrace your struggles. Speak with your Line Manager and see if help can be provided. Many things could alleviate issues. A different role, noise cancelling earphones, a mental health first aider – there are plenty of possibilities that could work for you.

What do you think needs to be done to combat the stigma around mental health in the construction industry?

In the construction industry, where night shifts and weekend shifts are common, it can be easy to forget the toll those longer hours, early starts and unusual shift patters can take.

We need to encourage people to talk openly about their mental health and create a culture where it is okay to express these concerns. We need to continue to change the hearts and minds of people, who still put ‘work first’, even when it is damaging their own mental health.

While positive steps have been made, we must not rest on our laurels. We must continue to focus on mental health not only across our own workforce but involve our supply chain and industry partners too.

We must treat health like safety.

>> Mental Health Awareness week runs from 9-15 May, posts promoting good mental health for all can be found on social media using #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Balfour Beatty’s support for mental health 

Balfour Beatty has encouraged numerous individuals to take part in its mental health first aider training programme. In total, it has 561 trained employees across its sites and offices to support those in need.

Balfour Beatty also joined with Mates in Mind in 2017 to tackle the stigma around mental health within our industry.

Mates in Mind provide tools and techniques to deal with the startling statistics that highlight the evident problem within the construction, but also provide the education required so that businesses can nurture a fully supportive and inclusive working environment.


Every Person counts

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We know the industry has no shortage of suggestions for tackling construction’s skills crisis, from reforming apprenticeships, to offering more flexibility, to increasing diversity, to providing better pathways from education to the workplace. Our Every Person Counts coverage aims to provide a place where debates can play out, views be aired and solutions shared on all these topics.

If you have an employment initiative you want to tell us about email us at with the subject line “Every Person Counts”. You can also contact us via Twitter @BuildingNews and LinkedIn @BuildingMagazine, please use the hashtag #everypersoncounts. We look forward to hearing your employment stories.

You can find all our Every Person Counts coverage in one place on our website.

And if your organisation has a particularly strong record in this area, you could consider entering the Every Person Counts – People Strategy Award at this year’s Building Awards.