Call me cynical but the UK government chooses to announce a new Suicide Prevention ‘czar’ on World Mental Health Day, which is political ‘virtue signalling’ in the extreme without having done very much about the nation’s state of mental health so far. All you hear about are cuts to services and mental health has often been the first to be crossed off the list.
Yet if you include all aspects of mental health, from depression, addictions and stress to family breakdowns, severe loneliness and suicide, the UK statistics are frightening. Suicide is now the leading cause of death in men between 15 and 49; three out of four suicides are men. While is it excellent that influential people such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – and his brother and sister in law, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – are raising the profile of this serious issue, the construction industry has been slow to acknowledge the problem and respond accordingly.
A recent survey has found that one in six UK workers are experiencing depression, anxiety and stress. I would argue that the figure is even higher within the construction industry – a visit to any site around the country would confirm that many people are suffering from almost unbearable levels of stress and anxiety. This affects their work, their health and the safety of everyone on site.
While I am always calling for far more diversity in the industry, after years of working with mostly male plumbers I have witnessed high levels of stress in this male dominated sector. These stress levels can lead to
- Emotional instability
- Decrease in productivity
- High rates of absence from work
- Dependency on prescription drugs, narcotics and alcohol
- Safety being compromised
- Families being broken up
- Individuals experiencing health issues
If people were better at recognising and dealing with these signs in themselves or their workers there would be an overwhelming improvement in productivity, safety, employee retention and job satisfaction, as well as personal contentment.
A shocking 4500 people take their own lives every year in the UK. While it is good news that the government has pledged £1.8million to the Samaritans it’s still a tiny amount of financial help when mental health professionals are urgently needed throughout the NHS, in doctors surgeries, in schools and in community groups.
Every year one adult in four, along with one child in ten, will have a mental health issue. These conditions can profoundly affect literally millions of lives, affecting the capability of these individuals to make it through the day, to sustain relationships, and to maintain work.
There is still a stigma attached to mental health which means that many of those affected are reluctant to ask for help. According to UK estimates, only about a quarter of people affected by mental health problems undergo ongoing treatment.
At On Tap Plumbers our supervisors and managers experience highly stressful situations on a frequent basis on construction sites and we address this to help our team learn techniques to deal with these situations in conjunction with an amazing organisation, Mates In Mind, which works closely with the British Safety Council, the Construction Leadership Group and other charities such as Mind.
In order to develop a high performance way of working it is not just about your ability to physically carry out the work, it’s the mindset and motivation that pushes you to do the best job you can. If for no other reason than the bottom line, companies in the construction industry should at least be pro actively recognising there is a severe problem and taking steps to do something about it to support their workers.