Mental health awareness dates provide an opportunity for all to help shine a light on the issues surrounding mental health. It is a chance for employers to highlight to their employees the importance of self-care and that help is available to all. The fact is that there is still a huge stigma surrounding mental health and it is essential that we work towards building an environment where individuals feel safe and comfortable to be open about needing help.
It is quite well known that in the property and construction sector that work-related ill-health and the risk of workplace injuries is high. What is often overlooked is that there is a high number of construction workers, specifically men, who suffer from mental ill-health in the industry. The HSE reports that in 2016/17 there were 30 fatal injuries to workers and 64,000 non-fatal injuries to workers. Each year 80,000 workers are suffering from work-related ill-health conditions including:
- Musculoskeletal disorders - 65%
- Stress, depression or anxiety - 15%
- Other illness - 20%
While just 15% of the above conditions have been recorded to be mental health related, recent ONS figures, commissioned by Public Health England (PHE), have found that the leading cause of death in men under 50 is suicide. Those found to be at greatest risk, 3.7 times above the national average, are low-skilled male construction workers. Men working in a skilled trade, plasterers, painters and decorators, in particular, were also at risk of suicide, more than double the risk when compared to the male national average.
However, a recent PageGroup survey found that one-third of UK employees don’t feel comfortable discussing mental health conditions with their managers and 71% of people still consider the topic to be taboo in the workplace. This is despite the growing number of organisations that have signed pledges and introduced training programmes with the aim of building more inclusive cultures for their staff to feel better supported.
As those with physical injuries are able to openly request time off to recover, those workers who are quietly suffering from stress, anxiety, depression and mental ill-health should also feel able to seek the help and support they need.
Building a better support system
Business leaders and managers should be taking the first steps to provide the support their staff need and this, in turn, will encourage everyone to follow suit. The duty of a leader stretches much further than simply delegating tasks and assessing team performance. Workplace culture and individual wellbeing should also be a high priority – building a working environment that encourages openness, embraces individuals as their true selves and offers support to all without exception.
Just as everyone works and learns differently, everyone also copes with ill-health differently so it is key that those who need to, have a choice as to how they take care of themselves when faced with a mental health condition. Some of the support options you could offer and should consider include:
- Encourage conversations with managers or HR business partners.
- Anonymous 24/7 support helplines run by the organisation.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy.
- On-site resources such as quiet rooms, break-out areas or mindfulness activities.
There is no one solution to mental ill-health but ensuring your employees feel comfortable discussing their worries or seeking help when they need it is crucial. It’s all about normalising the conversation at work through increasing awareness of mental health in your organisation and building a wider support network for everyone to freely express themselves and open up. A healthy and happy workforce is also one that is more productive and loyal. It is time to really commit your business efforts not only to the physical wellness of your employees but also their mental wellbeing.