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/
Comic Relief: Red Nose Day 2019
Comic Relief began back in 1985 with the first Red Nose Day making an appearance a few years later in 1988. Every year since then, on Red Nose Day, people throughout the UK come together to raise vital funds to battle poverty and free the world from unjustness both here at home in the UK and overseas. Comic Relief has raised over £1billion since its inception and we’re delighted to be joining in the fundraising this this year. The team from Harvey Lawrence have been busy visiting our sites throughout the Midlands and Northern regions snapping photos of site teams proudly sporting their red noses. It was great fun and we’d like to thank everyone involved who showed great support for this very worthy cause. Harvey Lawrence donated the red noses and we’ve made an additional donation for every red nose featured in these wonderful photos. Thanks again to the teams at Bardsley, Bouygues UK, Bowmer + Kirkland, Create Construction, Cruden Group, ISG, LiDR Contract Furniture, McLaren, Seddon Construction, Seddon Homes, St Modwen Homes and Wildgoose Construction for all helping to make Comic Relief 2019 the best yet. See the full showreel of our visits below: We’d love to see how you supported Comic Relief 2019 too, share with us over on our social channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us to speak confidentially about your next career move.
Bridging The Gender Gap - International Women's Day
International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8th and although it may feel like a new celebration it actually began in 1911. The day is one of celebration and recognition of women’s achievements around the globe and strives for continued gender equality, with this year’s message being #BalanceforBetter. Across the construction industry there are only around 14% of workers who are female and the higher you climb, the smaller the number gets with just 4% accounting for senior positions in the industry. Harvey Lawrence, industry-leading construction recruitment brand, is well-aware of the employer appetite to recruit female construction talent. Yet sadly, the number of women we place is less than 10%. If we look purely at managerial roles, that figure worryingly decreases to less than 4%. The industry so badly needs to recruit more females in order to move more towards gender parity and a more diverse workforce. We took some time to talk to a recent female candidate of ours that we placed in a managerial role to get her thoughts on women in construction. Nicola Atkins, Bid Manager of Wates Construction North West, has a varied and successful career spanning 23 years in the construction industry. Nicola entered as a construction graduate and progressed through site engineering to senior level design and bid roles. Today on International Women’s Day we look at her advice for women considering a career in construction and consider what more can be done to retain the industry’s female talent. Q: What advice would you give to women entering the construction industry? A: “Be confident, be visible and let your voice be heard. You need to focus on yourself and be better than you thought you could be. Never stop seeking knowledge and surround yourself with successful people. Be prepared to grow and develop”. Q: What things should women consider before they enter the industry? A: “Appreciate that the industry is nomadic and that there are many exciting challenges and changes and that no two days are the same. There are many varied and wide-ranging roles that may not present themselves immediately, so you need to learn to be adaptable and be prepared to switch roles in order to get a rounded experience. Be prepared to be strong in meetings and the conversations you hold. Keep in contact with your female friends as much possible so that you can achieve balance outside of work. This is important when working in what is still a male – predominated sector”. Q: What do you think can be done to help more women enter the construction industry? A: “The industry has made great progress but more still needs to done. More progress could be done at “grass roots” level but there has been a lot of effort put in at secondary and higher education level. At primary school level the industry needs to show young girls that construction is an exciting and rewarding industry to work in”. Q: How do you think the industry could change to retain more women? A: “More can be done through offering more flexibility particularly with advancing technology and continued understanding to allow flexibility around family, home and careers. The industry needs to listen more to the needs of women so that they can keep female talent”. Q: Are there any particular attributes that women need in order to succeed in the construction sector? A: “You need a good sense of humour and be prepared to be assertive. You also need to be able to effectively communicate as well as respond firmly when necessary. Whether you are working on bids or live sites, you are continually required to be a problem-solver and remain positive. If you really want to progress, you need to be able to lead”. Q: In your experience, do you think that women are recognised as equal within the industry? A: “Yes, I absolutely do! In my 23 years in the industry I have had to be a chameleon and adapt. I work in a business where there are women in site roles, in quantity surveying roles and also in the office across a range of disciplines, which is great. We have proven ourselves as intellectually equal and the industry is excited by women taking key roles. The industry has harnessed the concept of the female gender being able to make a key contribution and recognises that females can play to the strengths of the business. Women can be highly marketable as their approach to tasks and confrontations is different to a man’s. Women are good at conflict resolution and really good at taking a collaborative approach”. Q: What can be done to stop women leaving the industry?" A: “Employers need to listen more to the reasons given by women for wanting to leave. They need to understand more and allow more flexibility. To keep the female asset, they need to allow them to try on “different hats” in terms of flexibility within job roles. The industry is exciting and has many varied areas of interest to explore. There is choice and choice is massively powerful to retaining women within the sector.” IWD 2019 is, deservedly, an important day and the drive for continued gender equality is crucial in order to maintain momentum towards a more balanced workforce. Given the current skills shortage in construction, it’s important to recognise that women can, and do, make a highly valuable contribution to our industry. More women in the industry will bring an added dimension and play a key role in growing and diversifying talent pools across the industry – something Harvey Lawrence is committed to promoting wherever possible. To continue this conversation and share your thoughts, join us on our social channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us to speak confidentially about your next career move.