As a valued and respected partner of iHASCO, we asked Bill Hill, CEO of the construction wellbeing charity Lighthouse Club, to answer a few questions regarding Mental Health in the construction sector.
We asked Bill why he thinks mental ill-health is such a problem in the sector, if anything had improved in the last few years and what can be done to combat mental ill-health in the sector...
Why is mental-ill health such a problem in the Construction industry?
Mental ill-health is such a problem in the construction industry because we work in a dangerous environment; every single year we lose 30 to 40 people on site with on-site fatalities. Every year there are 2,000 people who get injured in such a way that they can’t go back to do the work that they used to do.
But the stats that really have come to fruition over the last couple of years is that 20% of the time that is spent off work is due to stress, anxiety, or depression. And the stat that has knocked the industry for six is that every working day in the UK, we lose two people, two of our workforce, to suicide.
We’ve got to do something about it, we’ve got to get momentum behind it, and we’ve got to fix this problem.
What can be done to break the stigma surrounding mental health in construction?
I think the stigma is probably the biggest obstacle that we’ve got to overcome to try and get the momentum behind this. It is problematic because 87% of the workforce in construction are male. I think the male psyche is not predisposed to opening itself to weaknesses (or perceived weaknesses), such as having anxiety, depression, or stress.
From a young age, your preconditioned to be strong, and to “shut up and put up”.
So, we’ve got to break down that stigma. It’s the biggest problem we’ve got to overcome. There are many other things we can put in place, but stigma is the biggest one.
How has mental health improved in the construction sector over recent years? Has it improved at all?
I’m delighted to say that we have done quite a lot over the last couple of years. I think construction was quite late to come in to putting major programmes to improve mental health.
But once we got all the statistics and the findings, the industry has been very good at putting some momentum behind it. And we have improved over the last couple of years.
We’ve seen major companies having programmes put in place, which have been beneficial. And all the indicators are moving in the right direction.
Can you offer any general advice to construction workers suffering from mental-ill health?
I think the best advice that I can give to anyone in the industry that is suffering from mental ill-health is to talk or do something positive.
Our charity has developed a free downloadable app that you can access called the Construction Industry Helpline App. You can download that and you can self-help.
We’ve also got a 24/7 free construction industry helpline for anybody who has any problems and feels they’re in a crisis. They can phone that helpline and get support.
But the biggest thing we’re doing is working with the CITB to put Mental Health First Aiders on site.
So, you can see this picture that we are trying to build right now where somebody is surrounded by support. They can have an app for self-help, they can phone a 24/7 helpline, or hopefully, in the future, they’ll have somebody to talk to on-site with some skills to help them through their problems and refer them on to get extra support.
Can you explain how people will benefit from the partnership between Lighthouse Club and iHASCO?
I think the biggest of the partnership between our charity and iHASCO is using the technology of eLearning.
There are so many people to get around and educate them in the area of mental health, and I think the partnership will play a fundamental part of getting the message out to a lot of people, especially some of the management structure where a little bit of awareness training will go a long way to helping them understand the problems and the issues of their workforce.
What one message would you like to get out to the industry?
My big message to the industry is that there is no health without mental health.
Our industry is absolutely fantastic about doing things right.
Doing things right is about ticking boxes; doing right things is about saving lives.
A comprehensive programme to improve the mental health of the workforce is the right thing to do.
Mental Health Awareness in Construction
Back on the topic of eLearning, we offer an Online Mental Health Awareness in Construction Training course designed for all levels of those who work in the industry.
The course aims to help workers understand the different factors that can trigger mental illnesses in those working in the construction industry.
It also discusses the types of mental illnesses that someone could be suffering from and provides a wellbeing toolkit to assist those who are struggling from mental ill-health.
Claim your free trial to the course today!