With this industry still being very male-dominated, we also need to remember that men are three times more likely to commit suicide. Figures like that pose the question as to why more isn’t being done to tackle this silent crisis of mental health in construction UK.
Employees in this industry often work long hours, odd shift patterns and to tight deadlines. This, coupled with the fact that the work continues to be high-risk despite changes to many safety regulations, begins to show us that perhaps we are focussing on the wrong areas.
One in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, so we need to begin addressing these issues head-on.
Lack of support is often cited as one of the main reasons why employees don’t speak up about their mental health. In this industry, it is particularly true. There is a real lack of awareness and understanding which needs to change.
We need to start having these conversations and normalising them so that people feel comfortable coming forward and speaking out. Only then will we begin to make a difference and realise the true impact.
Causes Of poor Mental Health In Construction
While a stable career can provide a sense of security and achievement which is vital for improved mental health, there are demands in any job that can be a catalyst for stress and anxiety.
Long hours are a huge part of why people in construction suffer from poor mental health. It’s not uncommon for construction workers to work 12-hour days, and sometimes even longer. This can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and a lack of motivation. Additionally, working long hours can take a toll on your personal life, as you have less time for friends and family.
When financial difficulties are then brought into the mix, mental health in construction UK can skyrocket as people working already long hours are forced to take on extra – pushing their minds and bodies to their limits.
The construction industry poses many concerns in this area. Late nights and a constant lack of routine can lead to problems such as insomnia and sleep deprivation. This can then have a knock-on effect on someone’s mental state, as they are not getting the rest they need to cope with the demands of their job.
Construction workers are also more susceptible to injuries due to the nature of their job. This can lead to chronic pain, which can in turn lead to depression and anxiety. There is a considerable lack of awareness from labourers as to where they can receive support and information.
Many people who work in construction complain of uncertain workloads. With such high competition and multiple businesses bidding for projects – it can apply extra pressure to those trying to win the jobs and those waiting for confirmation on their next project.
Feelings of insecurity and anxiety arise as people worry about their next pay cheque and uncertain workloads. With this sector having a high proportion of self-employed individuals, it is key we implement support and understanding for those who rely on steady incomes.
Help with private pensions and finding extra work when possible are just a couple of things employers and managers can do to help their workers with financial concerns.
A male-dominated industry comes with further pitfalls in terms of keeping up appearances. Mental health in construction UK is often left unspoken about as there is a sense of ‘toughen up’ and ‘deal with it’. This can be incredibly damaging, as people are left to struggle on their own.
These issues should not be seen as a weakness, and by breaking down these barriers we can begin to support those who don’t feel they can reach out. Even within British media, we still see images of hyper-masculinity whereby the ‘macho’ facade is played by those in certain industries.
This is often reflected in the general work culture where on-site it can become competitive and hard-hitting. As a result, men adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms and only find themselves spiralling.
Women In Construction
It’s not just men who suffer in silence. In a dominated industry, we can find that women feel just as isolated, if not more so than those putting up with the hyper-masculine culture.
This can firstly be due to the lack of support and understanding from employers, as well as colleagues. Understandably, it can be difficult for women to find their voice and feel confident enough to voice concerns and opinions in the workplace, often feeling as though they are not seen as equals.
Pressures can be different to those men face in the same job. For example, juggling pregnancy and childcare for those who have families alongside general bias and judgement from coworkers, management and the public puts extra strain on their lives.
39% of women voiced in recent studies that finances were their main worry impacting stress at work. Unfortunately, we are still experiencing the negative implications of the gender pay gap in many industries.
Mental health in construction can be heightened for women who earn less than their male counterparts – an issue that is rife across many companies. These additional biases can seriously impact how they perceive their jobs and how fulfilled they are in their careers.
Mental Health In Construction UK – Actions
While many problems stem from the general culture and appearance of this industry, most things are from the way it is being managed. So, the implementation of correct processes and new ways of approaching this silent crisis will be the first step towards improving upon it.
Educate Your Workers
As we have already mentioned, having a positive and safe company culture is going to address many of the problems faced today by workers. Management plays an important role in educating individuals on the correct ways to interact and carry out their roles.
Providing mental health workshops, resources and social events will allow you to start the conversation and mitigate that macho appearance. Instead of letting your teams deal amongst themselves, provide the initial point of contact and let them know that it is ok to talk. Show them ways around their problems and set an example of what you expect.
This can also be done by setting up an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This gives employees the chance to confidentially discuss their problems with Mental Health Professionals. Something that, if not given the chance, many would never make use of.
Having it readily available removes that barrier many men and women struggle to get through on their journey to improvement.
Creating A Mental Health Policy
Once you have established a company culture that is open and supportive, it’s time to put some guidelines in place. Having a policy gives employees a sense of safety, knowing that their employers are taking this seriously.
Your policy should cover the support available internally and externally as well as how to access it. It should also go over what is expected from managers in terms of looking out for signs and being proactive in addressing these issues.
As a result, you can start introducing ways of making adjustments for those who are struggling. A more inclusive environment will hopefully allow workers to feel more fulfilled and understood – taking the opportunity to better their work-life balance while tackling the hardships and workload of the job.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there are resources available to help. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK offers a variety of services to support those with mental health issues. You can find more information on their website. Additionally, Samaritans offer a 24-hour helpline for anyone struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts. You can reach them at 116 123.
As a business within the industry, we are constantly looking for new ways to address well-being at work. This means ensuring that everyone we work with – whether that be through project management or other services knows who they can contact and exactly what is expected of them.
For more information on our services or for advice on how to manage mental health in the construction industry, get in touch with our team and we will be happy to help!