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How can construction create positive mental health culture?

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  • Industry Viewpoint

We all know that the words “mental health” and “construction” aren’t always associated with positivity, so what can we do to change this?  How can we collectively reduce the terrifying figures we often see in the media? e.g., male construction workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than men working in other industries. 

Changing the mental health narrative

It’s time to change the narrative and drive each other towards achieving the culture change desperately needed within the construction industry. We want to see positive changes and more people taking action and talking about mental health issues and wellbeing. 

Fabrick thoughts

We asked the Fabrick team for their thoughts and ideas on how the industry can bring about the change needed. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Marketing Manager, Laura Garving, suggested that companies could introduce the equivalent of the ToolBox talk, but for mental health issues. This would clearly demonstrate its importance and be viewed as an equal priority to health and safety. The ToolBox talk could be implemented across company sites and offices to educate staff on the signs of declining mental health and encourage more of an inclusive approach across firms.
  • Senior Account Manager, Amelia Spence, proposed a thoughts and feelings box that companies could implement whereby employees can anonymously post about how they are feeling on a weekly or monthly basis. Each company could nominate a ‘mental health ambassador’ who would review each note. Perhaps each month there could be a particular focus on the majority subject matter. Many people think that mental health is all about depression and not being able to get up and do your day-to-day tasks. However, it can encompass many aspects of behavioural/psychological disorders such as anxiety, fear, grief, confusion, huge fluctuations in emotions - both happy and sad - social withdrawal, all of which need to be spoken about in equal measure.
  • Senior Account Manager, Sian Fulton and Account Executive, Becky Dixon, both suggested that more companies should have trained mental health first aiders. These nominated individuals will be trained to spot early signs of mental health and offer the appropriate support to colleagues. Becky highlighted the importance of this role, as sometimes it can be daunting to speak up to our colleagues or bigger groups of people – especially in the predominantly male construction industry – where speaking up can sometimes be seen as ‘weak’. Nowadays, men are being encouraged to open up more, but I think having a designated person to report to will make this slightly easier and take some of the pressure off.
  • Another idea that Laura proposed was to encourage people to wear green for the day to highlight to colleagues that they’ve experienced mental health struggles. This may change someone’s perception of a colleague who they thought ‘had their life sorted’, and help break down a barrier. Colleagues may feel they could then speak to each other more openly, as they would know their colleagues would understand.
  • Our social team suggested a ‘mental health truth’ social day whereby people write a post about their mental health experiences or how they’re really feeling or simply offer to be there for their connections and provide a listening ear. I’m sure most of us have looked at others’ positive personal posts and sometimes wondered why we’re unable to obtain the same positivity in our lives, thus making us feel down. Encouraging people to post the truth about how they’re feeling could help save a life and help break down the stigma surrounding mental health.

 

Fabrick beliefs about mental health

At Fabrick we truly believe that progress is being made within the construction industry but we feel it’s everyone’s responsibility to play their part – we can’t simply expect, or rely on, the larger organisations to do everything. We take pride in promoting the positives within construction and the wider built environment, so hope our ideas may be food for thought to our readers. It’s important we all try to break the current stigma surrounding mental health and encourage people to talk about their feelings and struggles. 

Spot the mental health signs

For companies to bring change and implement ideas like the above takes time – it won’t happen overnight - so it is important we all recognise the signs of poor mental health and offer support to these individuals. Mental health manifests differently in every person, so it can often be difficult to spot those struggling.

The Construction Financial Management Association has set out some helpful signs to look out for:

  • Increased lateness, absenteeism and presenteeism (showing up to work physically, but not being able to function)
  • Decreased productivity due to distraction and cognitive slowing
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Isolation from peers
  • Agitation and increased interpersonal conflict among co-workers
  • Increased voluntary and involuntary attrition
  • Increased feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Decreased problem-solving ability.

In conclusion...

If you see a friend, colleague, boss or anyone suffering from the symptoms listed above, encourage them to speak. Offer them an ear. If we are to change the current culture within this and many other industries, we need to get more businesses and organisations to fully understand the issues surrounding mental health. Showing compassion and understanding towards each other is vital to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and bringing about positive change.

Additional resources

If you'd like more information on mental health the links below may help:

www.matesinmind.org/

www.mind.org.uk/

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