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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Survey reflects scale of industry’s mental health problem

More than 25% of construction related workers, who responded to a mental health survey, said they had considered taking their own lives because of workplace stress.

The figures are even more alarming among junior staff and graduates where over one third confessed to having suicidal thoughts at some point in their working lives.

The survey was carried out by the trade publication Construction News and prompted calls for urgent action from industry leaders.

“Arguably, the most worrying statistic from CN’s survey was the fact that 90% of those affected by suicidal thoughts, or who knew someone who had taken their own lives, did not turn to their employer for help,” said Paul McLaughlin, chief executive of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).

“Fear of losing their jobs and the ‘stigma’ associated with mental health means far too many people in our industry just struggle on. This needs to be tackled head on now.”

55% of construction workers told CN they had experienced mental health issues and 41% admitted to having problems related to their current workplace.  This is double the national average and supports the argument that stress levels are particularly high in this sector.

Impact
According to a recent BESA survey, eight out of 10 building engineering contractors believe that workplace mental health will have a growing impact on their businesses over the next five to 10 years.  30% of employers in the sector admitted to finding worker mental health “hard to manage”.

“How the industry behaves and how it treats people are significant factors,” said Mr McLaughlin.  “The competitive nature of our supply chains and our industry’s so-called ‘macho’ culture can put people under intolerable pressure. However, the key thing is to look out for the danger signs and then make strenuous efforts to get people to open up about their problems.”

BESA is working with the mental health charity Samaritans and during a joint workshop last year it was clear that many engineering employers feared saying or doing the wrong thing; or that they might actually create a problem by trying to intervene.

“Many people who work in so-called ‘hard’ technical professions are loath to display apparent weakness by asking for help so the situation continues to fester and deteriorate – with potentially tragic consequences,” said Mr McLaughlin.

“Our industry has a problem with mental health and it is vital that employers and work colleagues create a culture where people feel it is OK to talk about depression and stress,” said Mr McLaughlin. 

BESA is supporting the Samaritans’ annual campaign Talk to Us, which takes place in July to raise awareness of the importance of listening and seeking help.  Samaritans’ 201 branches in the UK and Ireland will be joining in to raise awareness of the help the charity’s 20,000 volunteers provide, any time from any phone, and via email, text, or face to face at branches.

Samaritans uses its shared listening tips: S.H.U.S.H – Show you care; Have patience; Use open questions; Say it back; Have courage – to help people become better listeners.

“Everyone can feel overwhelmed at times in their life,” said Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland.  “We are asking key people and organisations to take action and make sure their service, their organisation, their community is doing all it can to promote good mental health and prevent the tragedy of suicide.”

www.samaritans.org

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