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Senior MPs call for increased workplace mental health provision in light of construction industry report

According to the CIOB, workers often suffer in silence, and the ‘macho’ culture that exists of “simply dealing with it” and not seeking help that only makes the issues worse | Credit: PA Images

Chartered Institute of Building

4 min read Partner content

Following a shocking new report by the CIOB into mental health in the construction industry, Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Rosena Allin-Khan and other senior MPs, call for the removal of stigma in the workplace around mental health.

New research released today from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) reveals that a quarter of construction employees in the UK have considered taking their own lives. 26% of those who responded to the survey said that they had experienced suicidal thoughts over the past year. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 1,400 construction workers died by suicide.

Alongside these shocking statistics, 97% of respondents to CIOB’s survey said that they had experienced some level of stress as some point in the last year.

High levels of stress can possibly link to the high levels of suicide rates that we see with men in construction 3 times more likely to commit suicide than the average male in the UK.

Commenting on the findings, Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Rosena Allin-Khan said:

“The figures in the report make for alarming reading – especially in the context of coronavirus, as anxiety and depression are on the rise.

“It is vital that as a society, we tackle the stigma surrounding poor mental health.”

Taken in October 2019, the report titled, Understanding Mental Health in the Built Environmentsurveyed over 2,000 construction professionals to understand the scale and impact that mental ill-health is having on the construction workforce and the factors that are contributing to this.

The contributing factors included unrealistic deadlines and time pressures, of which 94% of those surveyed had said had been a factor in the last year. 

The CIOB anticipate these levels will rise due to the effects of Covid-19.

Dr Rosena Allin Kahn said: “As coronavirus has made work an even more uncertain time for so many people, the government need to ensure that mental health provision is in place in all workplaces, for anyone who needs to access it.”

‘Macho’ culture

According to the CIOB, workers often suffer in silence, and the ‘macho’ culture that exists of “simply dealing with it” and not seeking help that only makes the issues worse.

Commenting on the report, Jeff Smith MP said: “These statistics are worrying but not surprising, confirming what we know about the prevalence of poor mental health in men in general and the pressures faced by workers in male-dominated industries like construction.

“To improve the situation for these workers we need an end to excessively long hours, poor working conditions, low pay and job insecurity.”

In recent years, mental health and wellbeing has garnered more attention in the media, leading to increased public and business awareness. However, this issue still pervades the construction industry, affecting decision-making from boardroom through to site: Only 56% of those surveyed said their organisation had a policy in place for mental health.

63% of people had not received any formal mental health training or awareness over the past 3 years.

Tackling mental ill-health is going to remain a significant challenge for the industry over the next few years.

The CIOB believe that Government and professional bodies must work with the industry to support and help develop appropriate tools for managing and improving mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to supporting everyone’s mental wellbeing, especially during this unprecedented period.

“People can continue to access mental health services, including virtually, and we have released new tailored guidance to help people deal with this outbreak through practical tips and advice.

“We are already spending record amounts on mental health and we recently provided £5million to mental health charities to fund additional services for people struggling with their mental health as a result of the pandemic.”

To tackle this issue, the CIOB recommend that the industry adopts a “holistic approach” in addressing mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Identifying the factors causing poor mental health, implementing support initiatives, and creating a change in workplace culture will all help reduce mental health issues within construction.

Jeff Smith MP said: “There must be better training, resources and incentives to ensure workplaces support the mental health of employees.

“We also need to broaden the reach of anti-stigma initiatives to encourage more people to talk and seek help, and to properly fund local mental health services so that people can always access help.”

You can read the full report here 


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