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Exploring the Trade’s Mental Health Issues

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In 2021, the Office For National Statistics confirmed that in 2020 skilled construction and building trades saw the highest rate of suicide in England and Wales: the same grim record set every year of the past decade.

The risk of suicide among some site-based workers is reportedly three times the national average. Without question, it is clear that the construction industry has a serious mental health problem – but why? And what can be done about it?

Why is it there?

Working away, always being on the move, heavy workloads, long hours, job insecurity – ask anyone in the trade what they think the cause of such rates are, and they will likely each have their own opinion.

But, research published by CITB this year highlighted the above as key triggers of poor mental health. These are all factors that may have been worsened by the pandemic. It may not come as a surprise that a 2020 Chartered Institute of Building report found that 97% of construction workers polled had experienced stress over the past year.

Meanwhile, the FMB recently reported that a fall in construction output highlights the ongoing impact of material and labour shortages. Nobody said that a life on the tools wasn’t hard work, but now, the line is being crossed: are working pressures leading tradespeople towards mental health problems?

What to look out for

It’s more vital than ever to look out for each other and, importantly, to look out for yourselves. There are a number of behaviours that can be warning signs of mental health problems:

  • Changes in mood or sudden uncharacteristic outbursts of emotion such as anger
  • Withdrawing socially or isolating yourself
  • Lack of self-care (this could be making risky decisions, etc.)
  • A sense of hopelessness or being overwhelmed

We can all be looking out for telltale signs in workmates. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. When work pressure is on, it’s easy to get tunnel vision, so remember to check in on each other. Even if they say they are okay, ask again; it might just make the difference.

How to act

If you or anyone you know needs help with any one of the issues discussed in this article, the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity does invaluable work to support the industry and its members, offering emotional and financial support.

Find out more online or call their free 24/7 confidential Construction Industry Helpline for help on 0345 605 1956 in the UK, and 1800 939 122 in Ireland. Additionally, the Samaritans offer a safe place to talk any time you like about anything getting to you. Call free anytime on 116 123.

Here at On The Tools, we want to ensure we continue the conversation around mental health and we are always open to feedback and input from the community on what more we could be doing to help make a difference.

Listen to our podcast with Toolstation: ‘Mental Health Under Construction’ here.
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