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How can managers in the construction sector support staff towards better mental health?

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4th April 2019

We’ve talked about it before and we’ll talk about it again: mental health. We all know that a growing number of people in the UK are suffering from mental health issues, with an estimated one in four people experiencing issues relating to stress, anxiety or depression each year. Poor mental health affects overall wellbeing and many people struggle to cope with everyday life as a result.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, work can be really tough as well, with research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) finding that mental health problems are the primary cause of long-term absence at more than a fifth of organisations in the UK. When you consider that mental illness can often lead to other health problems, it’s likely that those figures could well be a lot higher, emphasising the need to address mental health in the workplace.

It’s an issue that’s affecting the construction industry particularly prominently, with construction workers 63% more likely to die by suicide than the national average. When you consider the fact that a construction worker is now statistically more likely to die of suicide than they are from a fall from height, it’s clear we as an industry need to take action.

Many within the sector are now recognising the importance of highlighting the topic and, if you haven’t already, now’s the time to put in place measures to help your staff deal with mental health problems in your workplace. Mental health charity Mind has published a new toolkit for construction workers on its Mental Health at Work website which gives you access to a fantastic range of free tools, advice and information that you can highlight to your employees.

Mind has teamed up with construction partners to provide some great ways you can help implement the mental health toolkit in your workplace, including:

-Signing the Building Mental Health Charter provided by the charity – it will show employees your commitment to mental health care

-Making sure your staff know about your employee assistance programme and the Construction Industry Helpline, available by phone and via a new mobile app

-Using the ‘tool box talk‘- a complete presentation, including videos, that you can use for free to raise awareness about mental health and teach people to recognise the warning signs to look out for

-Training line managers and supervisors in what to do when somebody mentions a mental health issue – the charity recommends training one in 100 employees or subcontractors as a certified mental health first aider.

Whilst we’d definitely recommend heading over to check out the resources available from Mind, in the meantime, we’ve outlined some top tips for supporting your staff towards better mental wellbeing.

1.Encourage open conversation

Nine out of 10 people who experience mental health problems say they face discrimination as a result. In order to beat this stigma, encourage open conversations about mental health in your workplace. Mental health is too often seen as a taboo so it’s important to create an environment where your employees feel able to talk should they wish. 2.Lead by example

In order to successfully change the culture of the company, everyone, from the top to the bottom, must buy into the idea. It’s vital that managers and senior team members lead by example and promote mental wellbeing in the workplace. By taking part in initiatives yourself, you can demonstrate to others in your company that you’re taking mental health seriously.

3.Pay attention

With the horrific stats on suicide rates in our industry, it’s important to look out for each other. If you notice an employee behaving differently, keep an eye on them and don’t be afraid to ask if everything is OK. Not everyone will be open to talking about their problems, but for some, acknowledging that they have someone to turn to can make all the difference and help them to understand that they’re not alone.

4.Allow mental health days off

As we mentioned earlier, mental illness is one of the most common reasons for long-term absence and in 2016/17, 12.5 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. In order to help stop this, preventative measures need to be taken. Allowing your staff to miss work for a day in order to give their mind and body a break and recharge from time to time can help avoid more serious mental health issues down the road.

5.Respect privacy

Once you’ve created a culture where your staff feel like they can come to you to discuss their mental health problems, it’s vital to respect their privacy by prioritising anonymity. Make sure you reassure your employees that you won’t discuss anything confidential or sensitive with other members of staff and that their use of mental health resources will never be monitored or tracked.

Mental health is a serious issue that affects a huge number of people and as a result it’s very likely that some of your staff could be struggling. It’s a big problem that can’t be solved overnight but by following the above tips and utilising the resources available from Mind, you will be taking steps in the right direction, helping your employees to feel appreciated and understood as a result.