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/
The Bear Grylls Adventure Experience
Imagine being hooded and locked in a dark room without any idea of what’s coming next… sound like fun? On a cold January day that’s exactly what we decided to try at the Bear Grylls Adventure experience in Birmingham. We were particularly keen to see what was on offer as we’d supplied a number of construction staff to the project when it was being built. If there’s one way to get to find out your colleagues’ ultimate fears then this is an excellent opportunity! As a teambuilding exercise it was great fun for the Harvey Lawrence team as we were dragged from one emotion to another together from fear to hysteria in equal measure. If you’ve never tried the iFly (massive vertical wind tunnel) then our adventurous senior recruitment consultant Marie would certainly be the first to recommend it. Learning how to maintain a completely different body posture in order to stay balanced in the correct position whilst feeling like you’re free falling at 12,000 feet was certainly a challenge for some. Back at Bear Grylls Basecamp we were subjected to a gruelling physical assault course which really brought out the competitive nature of some of our consultants, tested our archery skills and put our nerves to the test as we attempted to navigate our way out of the Survival Maze. On another level altogether was the escape rooms, definitely not for the faint hearted, where the fact that you’re wearing a hood in a darkened room leaves you completely at the mercy of your own worst thoughts as to what might be about to happen to you or any of your compatriots in the room with you… we won’t spoil the fun by telling you what does happen but be prepared to either laugh or cry your way out of it as it’s really the only way! You’ll need all your teamwork skills here to make sure you all make it out… The Bear Grylls Adventure definitely got rid of any lingering January blues and was a superb way of getting people to try things they may have previously been nervous about and to ensure virtually no one remained in their comfort zone. Here’s to the next Harvey Lawrence challenge! Join in the conversation with Harvey Lawrence over on our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us to speak confidentially about your next career move.
Do you love your job?
Valentine’s Day – for us, it’s about what you love about your job... At Harvey Lawrence we love helping candidates find their perfect job and clients find their perfect candidate, our passion for construction recruitment spans almost 20 years! But what about you? As Valentine’s Day is celebrated throughout the UK today, can you say the same about your job? To help you answer, ask yourself these questions: If someone asks you what you do, are you proud of your position and what your organisation achieves? Is your salary and benefits package commensurate with others at the same level in their career (our highly-skilled consultants can offer good market insight here)? When your alarm goes off in the morning, are you raring to go or are you reaching for the snooze button? Does your employer help you achieve your own personal career aspirations? Do you work with a team who you trust and enjoy working with every day? Are you stuck in a career rut that you just don’t know how to get out of, or are you already striving for the summit like Bear Grylls (we know a bit about that - check out our Bear Grylls blog)? In a recent study, it was reported that the average British worker will work for 84,171 hours throughout their lifetime. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s an extra 1,791 to add to that in overtime too! So, it’s imperative you spend those hours with colleagues who you love to work with and an employer who values you. So, if you’re not currently 100% in love with your job, we have a few ideas that might help: Re-visit the reasons why you accepted the job in the first place, what, if anything has changed in your current role? If you feel you have progressed outside of your immediate role, but this has not been met with any form of promotion, set out clearly where you have excelled and what value your work has added and request a meeting or appraisal with your boss to discuss your career progression. Don’t be too quick to feel that you have selected the wrong career path, it is often more likely that you are simply with the wrong team – work, after all, is all about relationships and it’s all about finding the right fit for you and your skillset. Add in some additional training and development to boost your skills. This will demonstrate enthusiasm and open doors to other jobs within your organisation that will add variety and challenge you. If you can see a better way of doing business within your organisation, offer to fix it. This will help alleviate the problem and also show you’re a problem solver who likes to get the job done, opening more doors for you in your role. If, after implementing the above, you still want to end the relationship with your current job this Valentine’s Day, then we have a highly-skilled team of construction recruitment specialists on-hand. Our team can provide expert career advice, get you in front of some the UK’s leading construction companies and offer industry knowledge that will help put love firmly back on your career agenda today. Just take a look at our latest building, housing, fit-out or trades and labour jobs to take the first step towards the perfect career relationship. Join in the conversation with Harvey Lawrence over on our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us to speak confidentially about your next career move.