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Mental Health in Construction

There is No Health Without Mental Health

Health and Safety has been a focus on construction sites for decades now, and there is no doubt that some great improvements have been made, but what does health and safety really mean?

And are we really getting it right?

The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." This is a widely accepted definition; however, many individuals, companies and communities are still unaware of just how important looking after mental and social wellbeing is.

The construction industry is known to be notoriously tricky to change and, with regards to the attitude towards mental health and in addressing stress risks on site, this certainly seems to be the case.

There are many challenges that come with facilitating a cultural change within companies and getting them to embrace mental health as a part of an overall health and safety strategy, but it is paramount that this happens.

There are now more deaths from suicide than from falls on site associated with the construction industry and with the prevalence of the “old-school” macho culture combined with the high stress environment (filled with tight deadlines and budgets, job insecurity and the nature of the physical work) this is horrifyingly unsurprising.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have released relatively new Management Standards to help ensure workplaces are safe, and these now include some additional recommendations regarding how to support mental wellbeing in the workplace, such as the use of Mental Health First Aid Training and other awareness training etc. These new initiatives seem to be adhered to in extraordinarily inconsistent ways across businesses. Some companies are making some fantastic first steps towards a sustainable cultural change, whereas others are still at the starting block.

There are also many free resources (such as NHS Moodzone) and online training options available. Joe Rafferty (chief executive of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and a lead member of the Zero Suicide Alliance) suggests that a good start for some sort of training would be to encourage the completion of the free Suicide Prevention Training by the Zero Suicide Alliance.

The Mates in Mind campaign website and services are also extremely valuable. They are doing some great work in this area and have a load of resources for the construction industry that are easily accessible.