World Mental Health Day 2022: Construction and Mental Health

A career in construction can be rewarding and provide endless opportunities for professional development, job satisfaction and a sense of camaraderie between teams. 

However, there is a darker side to the construction industry that doesn’t often get addressed, and that is the disproportionate number of people within the industry who are battling mental health issues. 

The statistics

While women are statistically more likely to have mental health concerns, men have been found to be three times more likely to die by suicde than women. However, men who work in construction have been found to be three times more likely to take their own lives than the national average man.

With high workloads, long-hours, poor weather conditions, pressures of managing budgets, increasing costs of supplies tied in with the traditional masculine working culture of construction, mental health concerns are often swept under the rug by workers who simply do not want to be deemed as weak. 

2021 research by Mates in Mind, a charity dedicated to raising awareness of the mental health issues within the construction industry, found that one third of construction workers suffer elevated levels of anxiety everyday, with two thirds finding that mental health within the construction industry is still stigmatised which would stop them from talking about it with others.

Failing to address these issues as an industry could be catastrophic, not only in terms of wellbeing but for the longevity of the industry. Randstad found that 23% of construction workers were considering exiting the industry within a year. On top of this, the same survey found that 73% of respondents felt their employees did not recognise the early signs of mental health problems.

What needs to be done

These issues have arisen from deeply rooted practices and working styles within the construction industry, and cannot be fixed overnight. A commitment industry wide needs to be taken to ensure we are noticing and helping those in need, as well as harnessing a working environment that empowers people to talk about their concerns and reach out for support when it’s needed. How can we ensure this is done? 

Mental health training and awareness

Those within managerial or supervisor roles should be given training on mental health, including how to spot it, and how to support employees who are struggling. 

We do not treat this like a tick box exercise, but provide training to those who are fully committed to understanding mental health as an urgent matter of wellbeing, as well as a health and safety issue like any other site related concern. 

Team wide awareness is also important to ensure that everyone understands the effects of hiding mental health concerns, and are in an environment that encourages talking about it. 

Healthy working cultures

The macho working culture associated with construction needs to end. Toxic masculinity and the fear of being seen as weak by peers is a contributing factor of this mental health crisis we are facing. 

Construction workers operate in difficult conditions, and having a laugh and sense of camaraderie between teams must remain, but not at the expense of someone’s mental health. 

Know where to turn 

One of the biggest ways to fight this issue is to make sure people know where to turn when they are struggling. 

Whether that’s the openness to talk with a colleague or friend, or which professional avenues to turn to when help is needed. 

The Samaritans, Mind, and your individual GP are often the first port of call for professional support. 

Company support

When people know they will be supported by those around them, it makes it that bit easier to get the help they need to feel better. Sometimes talking about it can be enough to get the weight of the world off your shoulders.

By creating a working environment that puts mental health on the same pedestal as physical health and teaching your team how to spot early signs of struggle in peers,  less people within construction will feel like they have to hide their problems until they can no longer handle them. 

Hard hats might protect our heads, but we all have to do more to look after each other’s minds.

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