Suicide in Construction – Building a Better Attitude to Mental Health
The risk of suicide in the construction industry and building trade is 1.6 times higher than the UK average. Let’s just think about that for a second, 1.6 times higher! For roofers, tilers and slaters the risk rises to 2.7 times higher. This isn’t a coincidence, something in the industry is going catastrophically wrong and more organisations are realising that it is time that something is done to address these issues. With World Health Day fresh in our minds and Mental Health Awareness Week around the corner in May (13th-19th), it is a good time to take a look at mental health and the wellbeing of those around us. Why is the suicide rate so high in construction? Firstly, 75% of all suicides in the UK are male, it is the biggest killer of men under 50, with those over 40 at the highest risk. Bearing in mind that the construction industry is male dominated it isn’t surprising that the rate is higher. One factor that is repeatedly highlighted is the “macho” nature of the industry. It has been drummed into men for years that “boys don’t cry”. This has translated to not talking about issues, thoughts and feelings which in turn can escalate into isolation and depression. For many years it has been considered weak for a man to have mental health issues and that he should “just get on with it”. It is easy to see how a person’s wellbeing is not really a concern for people adopting this mindset, perhaps not understanding the negative effect it has until it is too late. Another reason cited for the high suicide rate is the hire and fire attitude in the construction industry; particularly for manual workers. For a middle-aged male working to support himself and his family, fear of losing his income or not knowing where the next pay-check will come from can be a source of great stress. There is an assumption, rightly or wrongly, that admitting a mental health issue could put them at greater risk of being laid off, therefore keeping their head down feels like the only option. Finally, coupled with feeling unable to talk about any feelings of stress, anxiety or depression, workers may not know how to even go about it. Starting the conversation about mental health is incredibly difficult no matter who you are, but if you have no idea where to start, no prompts or support it makes this crucial first step virtually impossible. Times are changing Thankfully, partly due to a number of high-profile initiatives, it is finally being recognised that more support is needed within the construction industry to assist those who need it most. Terry Rigby, Director and Founder of Forward for Life states “The problem itself isn’t the problem. The problem is not recognising the problem as a problem that can be overcome through an achievable solution.” With the right training and experience, it is possible for employers to catch mental health warning signs early and to prevent a worker from going down the dark lonely path to depression or suicide. How can you help? Sadly, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues but if the industry can chip away at this little by little, eventually mental health will be seen as no less a weakness than say catching the flu. There are numerous tools and best practices available to support your staff. Best Practice - Encourage staff to talk Do your staff feel that they could talk to someone if they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or even depressed? Make it clear that they are supported, have a section in your employee handbook specifically addressing mental health. Put posters up in site cabins to remind people that they are not alone. Some companies have started men’s support groups. Talk about mental health, lead by example and show that there is no shame in feeling stressed out. The Considerate Constructors Scheme have reported on some fantastic employer stories and what they are doing to support staff. Prevention is better than cure If you can, appoint and train a mental health first aider, or several depending on the size of your organisation. Not every organisation has the luxury of a trained mental health first aider to spot the tell-tale signs of stress and anxiety but having one could be the difference between losing a team member or not. MHFA are rolling out training to many construction organisations throughout England. Ensure all staff are educated in the signs so that they are equipped to notice the first signs of mental health illness and to ask if a colleague is okay if their behaviour alters. If flexible working is an option, this is a great way for employees to regain balance between work, family and wellbeing. All too often, once work and family are taken care of in the working week there is rarely time for anything else. Building in even just half an hour a day to focus on exercise, time away from site, mindfulness can be the difference between a healthy and productive worker or a burnt out one. Join the action and be part of the solution The charity Mates in Mind was set up specifically to support construction workers calling time on outdated attitudes. They work with charities such as Mind and the Samaritans to help employers understand the options available to them to help support their staff. There is a handy tools section on their website guiding you through how to become part of the solution. Companies can join Mates in Mind to fight the stigma and raise awareness. The Building Mental Health Charter is another organisation that companies can join to show their support of the movement to improve mental health in construction. By joining you have access to a number of tools to help you to support your staff. They work with charities such as Mind, Heads Together and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Why not set yourself a target to adopt some of the best practices and help to ensure your workers feel supported? Let’s get talking about mental health, it’s okay not to be okay. Useful resources https://www.mind.org.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwy7vlBRACEiwAZvdx9p7Duv4s_d1oV2tz_hOLEbKGbyl-ApMZCuKpCqGkxPmThQduDtay_BoC-tEQAvD_BwE https://www.headstogether.org.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwy7vlBRACEiwAZvdx9tX4yfd1xH-wy4Pi4GG1aWnmQkc2GkCZBvuqaWxt5Sh1JDyKoVCf0RoCE50QAvD_BwE https://www.royalfoundation.com/ https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/news/data-news/suicide-statistics-a-wake-up-call-for-construction-28-03-2017/
Sarah Harvey talks about Harvey Lawrence and her thoughts on the Recruitment Industry
Sarah Harvey marked her 28th year in construction recruitment this year. In this interview, Sarah tells us about her personal experiences and discusses the changes and challenges in the recruitment industry and how these have affected Harvey Lawrence over the last decade and a half. Tell us about how your career in construction recruitment started and how Harvey Lawrence began. I entered the construction recruitment industry 28 years ago, straight after graduating from university. I spent many years with a global player, heading up several offices in the Northern Region. I spearheaded the opening up of the Manchester office for this major brand and developed it through to a Northern network across a team of 65. At this stage, I decided it was time for me to move on and do things my own way. I always wanted my own business and as I had the knowledge and experience, I thought the time was right to build a brand that did things in accordance with my own standards. Harvey Lawrence was founded in Manchester and we expanded into the Midlands in 2009. This meant personally I had come full circle, having grown up in the Midlands and where I started my career. Today Harvey Lawrence consists of a team of experienced recruiters who are passionate about doing the job correctly. We pride ourselves in being a value-based business and even in the tough times that we endured, we still did things correctly and refused to cut corners. We provide quality due-diligence and apply ethical standards, rather than just spraying CVs. What was it like to recruit when you first began your career in construction recruitment? How does this compare to when you began Harvey Lawrence? The pressure for producing results and reaching month-on-month KPIs was high and there was not much room for leniency. Either you cut the mustard or you didn’t. Consultants were expected to undertake every facet of the job and you had to rely heavily on phone work and face-to-face communication – social media and email strategies hadn’t taken hold. There were no job boards or tools such as LinkedIn and most of the work that came through was a result of building strong relationships. The industry at that time required recruiters who could offer a complete 360 service, not only generating candidates but also winning new business and closing deals consistently. By comparison, when I started Harvey Lawrence I was already 12 years into my career so I could network with people who I had previously worked with. I met people face-to-face and was very driven in this particular market. As a result the business has some very strong long-term relationships at senior management level and this has been massively influential in building our brand. Over the years, the recruitment sector has grown and become more competitive, as well as fast-paced. Some recruitment agencies cut corners to deliver CVs quickly but we have fought really hard to avoid this in order to create long-term trust and confidence in what we do. I feel that some of the basics of good value judgment, based on solid selection processes, have been lost. This is something I’m passionate about and as a result I manage my own business with the standards I was taught. What has changed over the years since you started Harvey Lawrence? There has certainly been a cultural shift in the recruitment industry in terms of the way recruiters interact with both candidates and clients. Technology, particularly through the use of social media, didn’t exist to any extent 16 years ago but now it seems to be one of the main tools used by recruiters. Harvey Lawrence has embraced technology and appreciates it is here to stay but we look to employ this in a creative way rather than bombarding people. For us, we don’t look for it to replace meeting people on a face-to-face basis as we think this is the best way to establish what their requirements are. I firmly believe this is why we’ve been running at 93% interview to offer ratio this year. Also our business profile has changed in that we started life as a permanent recruitment agency in the North West but today Harvey Lawrence is equally balanced across temporary and permanent recruitment throughout the North West and Midlands. One thing I can tell you that hasn’t changed is the way we do business: we have kept to our commitment of due diligence, even given the speed of the market. Have you noticed a gap in the market for clients? What are recruitment agencies not doing? There’s a gap in the market for recruitment agencies that demonstrate the right behaviours and evoke trust between the customers (whether that be client or candidate) and the agency. There is a deeply negative view about recruitment agencies as some use a scattergun approach to CVs and sometimes don’t demonstrate the correct business behaviours. I understand why this view is still prominent and I want to focus on ensuring that we avoid such behaviour. Ethical recruitment in itself is a gap in the market, allowing some credible recruitment businesses to gain a competitive advantage. In addition to this, I also believe that working with senior managers on a strategic basis, in terms of resource planning and brainstorming ideas, helps clients drive their recruitment brand, adding value to their own candidate attraction strategies. What has contributed to the success of Harvey Lawrence? Our success comes from our years of experience and track record serving the construction industry. We have survived a very difficult recession and had to adapt quickly to respond to a tough market. However, we maintained excellent relationships with clients and didn’t abandon them when they weren’t able to offer us business. Most importantly, we kept these relationships alive and healthy during these hard times. Our close client bonds have been invaluable to our continued success. The secrets to our success are: working hard; remaining focused at all times; staying true to our values no matter what and always looking forward and viewing the business pipeline. We celebrate what we do well and look to continually improve. Overall, it’s about being committed, thorough, tough, and passionate about what your business stands for. The lows have included having to realign and restructure the business during the recession and having the resolve to keep going and see success through to the other side. Fortunately this has paid off because we have emerged as a stronger and healthier business that remains committed. The main high of Harvey Lawrence has been building a brand to be incredibly proud of. We have built strong, long-lasting relationships with our clients and they consider us a trusted business partner as opposed to a sales organization to be wary of. Where will Harvey Lawrence like to be in 5 years? We will continue to provide excellent service to construction companies in North West and Midlands for permanent and temporary recruitment. We are also looking to extend our reach to London following key relationships we have with clients who work in this area. Whilst we’re incredibly strong in recruiting for building contractors and we know this market inside out, we also have worked with civil engineering and housing clients and we’re looking to build on this further. I am very keen to grow the business but not to lose the essence of what we are about which is a quality brand that is committed to delivering a skilled recruitment service.