In light of World Wellbeing Week, it is time to address why mental health in the construction sector is in such dire straits and the need to improve the support available to workers.
The ONS reports that the suicide rate among construction workers is three times the national average for men in general. The Lighthouse Club finds that this equates to two builders taking their own life every working day. The need to improve the support available to employees and business owners in the industry is further highlighted in new research from Fix Radio, which shows that a shocking 38% of tradesmen are now experiencing the worst levels of stress and anxiety in their lifetime.
Adding to this, research from Ironmongery Direct shows that 64% of tradespeople experience work-related stress at least once a month, with the report showing that a high workload, tensions with customers, and finances are the top three causes of stress for tradespeople. But despite its widespread effect, being a predominantly male-dominated sphere, 69% of tradespeople say that there is still a stigma within the sector surrounding seeking help for mental health problems, according to industry research.
Industry experts say that the construction sector faces a testing time ahead, amid rising interest rates, surging costs and the threat of recession. The latest S&P Global/CIPS construction purchasing managers’ index, showed that last month business optimism fell to its lowest since July 2020, with the sector experiencing its worst month for new orders for almost two and a half years. This comes at a challenging time, where overwhelming work schedules, material shortages, and new environmental directives, has left thousands of small businesses, equalling 27% of SMEs in the trade, on the verge of breaking point.
Where can tradespeople go for help?
The Lighthouse Club is focused on improving the welfare and wellbeing of the construction community in the UK and Ireland. It provides a range of free and proactive services to help companies deliver the best possible support to their employees and their families:
- The 24/7 confidential helpline is available to everyone on the site including subcontractors, agency workers and allied trades. Its Construction Industry Helpline covers all aspects of emotional, physical and financial wellbeing, and is available in different languages through the company’s partnership with translation services.
- A downloadable wellbeing support app called ‘Construction Industry Helpline’ covers all the aspects of wellbeing. The app is packed with information to learn about conditions, how to develop coping strategies, with signposting to over 3000 accredited organisations that provide support.
- Text HardHat is a 24/7 service that gives immediate access to text back counselling.
- Masterclasses Wellbeing are one hour scheduled CPD accredited wellbeing education sessions covering topics such as managing stress, building resilience, work-life balance, mindfulness, meditation, financial management and many more.
- Lighthouse Beacons have identified over 160 volunteer centres around the UK and Ireland, where workers can drop in to meet like-minded people, socialise and talk. It is facilitated by individuals with lived experience, and in this confidential environment, encourage those struggling with life problems to share their issues and if required, seek further help.
In addition, Clive Holland, Host, The Clive Holland Show, shares, “There are several underlying reasons why the rate of suicide in the construction trades is so high. Firstly, there is a macho image in the industry and men are not brilliant at opening up and discussing their feelings. But I feel that this is changing slowly, but surely.
“Secondly, there is a lot of stress involved in running a small business – long hours, few holidays, slow payers and cash flow issues. In the last two years particularly, spiralling costs of materials and spiking energy prices have squeezed margins even further. Couple that with the growing skills shortage, it ramps up extra pressures on daily site life. The pandemic has magnified many of these problems and tradespeople will tell you that they have never been this busy. Many are fully booked until the end of the year, if not further.
“It is also worth remembering that while many of our tradespeople have fantastic skills and deliver outstanding work, the weakest part of their game is dealing with the details of their business. Great tradespeople are not necessarily great business people and it is worth remembering that they often feel intimidated by the admin and financial side of the business.”