There are measures that can be taken to recognise the early signs of mental illness and to take a proactive approach to this problem.
The construction industry has a reputation as a high pressured working environment in which there is a relatively high number of workers struggling with mental illnesses such as stress, anxiety and depression (Health and Safety Executive 2015). How widespread is this problem and what measures can be taken to reduce this risk?
Mental illnesses such as stress, anxiety and depression are a leading causal factor in suicide, with construction workers representing 10% of all suicides in the UK, which suggests that a construction work is “six times more likely to die from suicide than from a fall from height” (Construction Industry News 2016, p.1). It is suggested that these conditions are prevalent in the construction sector because of the long working hours, the dynamic nature of constantly working to deadlines and the industries demographic. It is acknowledged that there are more women in the industry, however it remains a male-dominated sector and it is noted that men are often reluctant to discuss any health issues and the invisible effects of mental illness (Richardson 2014, p.1). These alarming statistic need to be addressed which means that organisations within the industry need trained individuals who can spot the signs of mental ill health to ensure that the worker who is experiencing mental health issues can receive the necessary help and support (Construction News 2016). It is argued that there are a number of benefits associated with including mental health first aid in health and safety planning including a reduction in days lost due to illness and a more productive workforce (Richardson 2014).
There are measures that can be taken to recognise the early signs of mental illness and to take a proactive approach to this problem. The Crossrail project in London is leading by example by putting health and safety as a key priority within what is described as the largest infrastructure project in Europe. To put the size of the project in context, there are more than 10,000 people working across over 40 construction sites in London making it an ideal showcase project form management of mental health in the construction industry. The Crossrail project has developed a health and wellbeing strategy including training 12 of Crossrail’s staff as Mental Health First Aiders supported by an additional 90 staff who have undertaken mental health awareness courses (Construction News 2016, p.1).
Construction Industry News, 2016. “Raising awareness of mental health issues within construction – Crossrail Limited case study”. [online]. Available at < http://cinmagazine.co.uk/raising-mental-health-awareness-within-construction-crossrail/ > [accessed 13th October 2016].
Health and Safety Executive, 2015. Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2015. [online]. Available at [accessed 13th October 2016].
Richardson, S., 2014. “Why is talking about mental health taboo in construction?” [online]. Available at < http://www.building.co.uk/why-is-talking-about-mental-health-taboo-in-construction?/5068403.article > [accessed 13th October 2016].