Breaking down the stigma of mental health in the construction industry

Society is speaking out about mental health more than ever before in order to break down the stigma that has been attached with mental illness throughout history. Yet, in the construction industry, the majority of people still feel unable to speak out about their mental health.

Construction News has recently conducted a survey to determine the presence of mental health in the construction industry and the results speak for themselves. From the 1,300 participants who took part in the survey, 30% had taken time off due to mental health/stress issues, and nearly a quarter of them had considered taking their own life. The statistics are alarmingly high, but there seems to be little communication between employees and those in managerial positions, as 63% of these respondents did not tell their employer that their absence was due to mental health.

Whilst there are clearly numerous complex reasons why the industry feels unable to speak out about mental health, 81% of workers agreed that there is still a stigma attached to it. This is seen as one of the main barriers preventing workers from speaking out and getting the support they need from their employers.

Who is most affected?
The survey suggested that poor mental health is particularly prevalent in smaller companies and put this down to factors such as the pressure on delivering projects and chasing payments. These can, in turn, have a knock-on effect on the home lives of workers as if a payment is late, it can put an increased financial pressure on them. Working long, demanding hours in order to meet a deadline can put a huge strain on an employees’ work-life balance.

In a breakdown of the type of employee who is most affected by mental health in construction, the survey concluded that junior/graduate workers are the most severely affected, with 68% saying they’d experienced mental health issues.

Spot the signs
The Construction Financial Management Association has highlighted some signs which may indicate a potential change to someone’s mental health. These include factors such as lateness, decreased productivity, distraction, a lack of self-confidence, isolation from peers, appearing overwhelmed and a decreased problem-solving ability.

What can be done?
When heading up a construction company, there are steps you can take to help your workers combat mental health issues and encourage them to speak up about any struggles they are facing. Many companies are now offering mental health training, showing workers what to do if they’re experiencing mental health issues and are training up members of staff to act as mental health first-aiders. Speaking out about mental health in the workplace can help to reduce the stigma, so your aim should be to promote an open and safe workplace culture.

If you’re worried about someone you work with, reach out to your colleague and create a safe environment for them to open up. It’s best to remain aware of the sort of language you’re using and the way you speak about mental health. Don’t underestimate the power of your words or the actions you take, no matter how small.