Mental health is an issue that plagues many industries. Construction, in particular, has been shown to be impacted by mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression at a higher rate than other professions. As construction training providers, we feel it is our duty to not only highlight the current state of mental health within the construction industry but offer actionable steps to improve the situation.
Sadly, in the UK, 2 construction workers die by suicide every single day. This amounts to over 700 people per year. As an industry, construction has one of the highest rates of suicide among its workers than other professions. This statistic can’t be ignored and needs to be addressed with a matter of urgency. Construction is about more than just bricks and mortar, our people are the heart and every life lost is a tragedy.
While the cases of suicide are particularly concerning, there are also reports which show that 48% of construction workers have taken time off for stress, 91% have felt overwhelmed and 26% have had suicidal thoughts. So, in an industry that offers such rewarding careers and a hands-on lifestyle, what is it that is causing this alarming crisis?
One factor that shouldn’t be brushed aside is that the industry is very male-dominated, with women only making up 12% of the entire workforce. It’s no secret that, as a generalisation, men tend to be less outspoken about their feelings and more reluctant to seek help. Talking through feelings and seeking professional help can be a huge help in a personal struggle with mental health. How do we change this stigma?
Construction workers often struggle to speak about their mental health. If they were able to be open with one another, perhaps the burden of work-related stress would not be so heavy on them. At TUTS, we are looking at collaborating with mental health practitioners to add mental health modules to our courses to increase awareness. With increased awareness, it is our hope that workers will feel more comfortable speaking about their own feelings, as well as being able to recognise signs in co-workers.
Another factor is financial issues. While the salaries of construction workers can be high, a lot of the time a lack of business knowledge can be the fall down. A huge proportion of construction workers are self-employed. These people are fantastically skilled tradespeople but aren’t necessarily educated about running a business. Often, projects will pay well but if the VAT money hasn’t been set aside, the taxes can take their toll.
A self-employed worker may find themselves in a financial crisis when their income falls. To avoid this, more training should be given on how to manage and maintain an established business within their construction training so that these individuals don’t get caught off guard by unexpected expenses or challenges.
The factors that contribute to mental health problems are complex and vary from person to person. Some other contributing factors in construction include long hours, time away from home, job insecurity and lack of support from employers. All of these can accumulate over a period of time until they reach boiling point! It is important we try our best to tackle each factor to reduce the overall impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing.
There have been many construction companies who have started to see the importance of addressing mental health within their workforce, but it only applies to their staff. At TUTS, we have found ourselves in an excitingly unique position which allows us access to the masses, to get mental health awareness spread throughout the industry as a whole. We do not take our position lightly and will do what we can to keep bringing those statistics down.
Let’s start a conversation on mental health; if you are interested in finding out more about how TUTS can support mental health and better tailor your training, give our friendly team a call.