11 March 2019
By Ewan Main, Mind
In any given year, one in four people experiences a mental health problem. But we very rarely acknowledge it. When Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index surveyed over 4,000 people across the construction industry, 53% had personal experience of a mental health problem, and of those, 60% had experienced it at their current job. But two-thirds of those never mentioned it to their employer.
I was struck by a video from the Health in Construction Leadership Group that said:
"We are part of an industry that makes history, that is changing the face of the UK. We have seen changes in the way things are done, and made things safer. But whilst we shout safety, we whisper health".
So, it's been fascinating to look further into this, as we've focused on construction recently on the Mental Health at Work website. It's funded by the Royal Foundation as part of their Heads Together campaign, and is run by a small team of us at Mind. But its purpose is to bring together knowledge, tools and resources from all sorts of organisations. With so much advice out there, it can be hard to know where to start; we aim to make it all easier to find and understand.
Bringing everything together like this sounds great. But one problem is that the same ways of talking, and thinking, don't work for everyone. A lot of the advice is similar, and much of it is things you can probably guess: work/life balance, regular breaks, and so on. But work/life balance is a very different proposition if you're away for eight weeks working on a contract. General advice to "take a break and get some fresh air" isn't going to cut it if you're out onsite all day anyway.
So, I'm grateful to Building Mental Health, a group of experts including Mace, Lendlease, CITB and the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, for acting as our expert curators. They've put together a whole suite of tools and advice for us, covering everything from downloading an app to rolling out a training programme to signing a charter. There's something in there that everyone can do – I hope you'll have a read, and share it with colleagues.
One message that's really hit home is this: if you're taking mental health seriously, showing that you've understood who you're talking to is absolutely key. We couldn't just blunder in with advice and recommendations when we didn't understand your lives and workplaces. In the same way, if an employer wants to support their staff, the measures they take have to reflect the real situation those staff are in. And right down at the individual level, the best way a manager or supervisor can help a colleague is to start by just listening to them.
There's still a long way to go, of course. But by paying attention to people’s individual situations, it's often not that hard to start making things a little better. I hope we can help.
Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Find out more.