The construction industry is sick. This is evidenced by the fact that a quarter of its workers considered suicide last year. This shocking revelation highlights how a silent crisis existed even before the current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to figures published by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), 26% of construction workers thought about taking their own lives in 2019, while 97% said they felt stressed at least once.
Job insecurity, long hours, late payments, time away from families and lack of support from HR were all cited as factors that have contributed to the industry’s deepening mental health crisis.
Hyper-masculinity plays a role
Writing in its report, Understanding Mental Health in the Built Environment, the CIOB highlighted how male construction workers often feel unable to talk about their mental health because of the industry’s ‘hyper-masculine’ expectations of how they should behave.
Meanwhile, female construction workers often have to put up with poor or no toilet facilities and inadequate sanitary conditions.
When compounded with the fact that over half (56%) of construction professionals are employed by organisations with no policies on mental health in the workplace, it’s easy to see how this mental health crisis has arisen.
The construction industry needs to do more
In its report, the CIOB also calls on construction firms to do more to identify risks, encourage more open discussion of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, improve awareness through training and events for staff and provide specialist support services. It also asks larger firms to consider how they can support other businesses in their supply chain.
Furthermore, the CIOB has made a number of recommendations to the government, including:
- Reviewing the Construction Skills Certification Scheme to include mental health support
- Updating the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 to ensure workplaces make provisions for mental health first aid
- Implementing the recommendations of the government’s own Thriving at Work report from 2017, which focussed on mental health in the workplace.
Speaking about the situation, CIOB President, Professor Charles Egbu, said “Tackling mental ill-health is going to remain a significant challenge for the industry over the next few years, and we must work as a collective – involving industry, government, and professional bodies to make more fundamental changes and improvements to mental health provision.”
It is so important that we have awareness weeks for as many health conditions as possible. Moreover, it is vital for those suffering from mental health illnesses — in any industry — that we understand the condition often doesn’t go away after a week and could always stay with them.
Experiencing my sister’s recovery from when she was first diagnosed 11 years ago with bipolar and acute psychosis, I know first-hand that a mental health illness is always lurking in the background. But with the right tools and professional help, individuals can stay on a journey of recovery. We must always remember it is a long journey and the fact that more people are aware of what others are suffering, in turn helps them to continue on their road to recovery.
Rebekah has worked for Premier Choice Group since 2009, and today develops our consumer client base. Working within a strong team of consultants, Rebekah maintains a high service level set out for our clients whilst building and retaining sound relationships throughout the company’s portfolio.