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Men’s health in the construction industry

This week is Men’s Health Week. The Men’s Health Manifesto sets out to tackle the high rate of premature physical and mental health deaths amongst men. Together we can start conversations and raise awareness which works towards reducing this rate.

Around 75% of suicides in the UK are committed by men. Mental Health is not just an issue for men, however, statistically, men struggle more at handling psychological problems when they arise. Society places lots of pressure on men to ‘man up’ and be masculine. This leads to many not talking about their issues or how they are feeling, and internalising, causing some to get to breaking point. Now society is seeing this trend and as a result many campaigns have been set up to encourage men to speak out and reach out for help if they need it.

Why are men in construction at risk of mental health problems?

Construction work can have a massive impact on your body physically, muscle strain from lifting heavy materials and long hours to finish projects are just some of the impacts on the body. However, did you know that suicide is the biggest killer among construction workers rather than falls on site? All of this work not only has a physical impact but it also affects your mental health.

With long working hours, demanding schedules and the instability of the job many workers find themselves under a lot of stress. Depression and anxiety are more common in the industry than musculoskeletal disorders such as muscle strains and Carpal Tunnel syndrome.

Many construction workers are temporary or contractors and the lack of job security can contribute to stress and anxiety. Added to this is the fact there is often no paid sick leave, holidays or access to company health programmes, this mean it’s harder for them to get the support they need to fully recover if they are suffering from mental ill health.

Construction is a male-dominated industry, and this can lead to very masculine work environments where people feel uncomfortable discussing their emotions. Across society there is a growing awareness of the benefits of discussing mental health issues, but this change will  take time to filter through the construction industry. Asking for help and opening up about feelings and emotions are not things that come naturally too many of those working in construction.

What can we do to help those suffering?

Social stigma around talking about mental health is gradually fading, with more and more companies now providing wellbeing programmes and other interventions. The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity launched a helpline aimed at people who want to get more information about how they can help themselves or take the next step in seeking professional help for their mental health. Some large construction companies such as Skanska has joined with other industry leaders to launch Mates in Mind. This is a UK-wide programme to promote positive mental health across the construction sector. Willmott Dixon has set up the All Safe Minds campaign to make sure that people working on its project sites across the UK are fully aware of the support network available in case they are suffering from mental health issues.

It is important to educate everyone in the construction industry to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression and start the conversation to assist in positive and healthier mental wellbeing.