Blog: How are you really?

By Sarah Meek, Managing Director at Mates in Mind

As Managing Director of Mates in Mind, I know the impact that poor mental health combined with an unsupportive or uninformed workplace can have on an individual working in construction. Whilst there are well publicised statistics around the increased prevalence of suicide in construction being 4.7x higher than in the general population, there is so much more that we can do to support people earlier before they reach a crisis point. This starts with a Mates in Mind approach in wanting to create a positive culture, train line managers and teams in how to start these conversations with colleagues and adopting a healthy approach to mental health and wellbeing where people feel informed and supported.

workplace stress is being felt like never before

In recent research studies undertaken by Mates in Mind and Institute for Employment Studies (IES) funded by B&CE, we learnt that within the small, micro and sole trader businesses in construction – workplace stress is being felt like never before. The research showed that people working in this part of the sector are less likely to access existing services such as helplines or apps and would rather speak to family than visiting their GP. From responses received, there was also a dependence on alcohol and non-prescribed drugs where they are being used to cope with their stress. This obviously is of concern from a H&S perspective, often when combined with a common lack of sleep.

With the important HSE campaign, Working Minds, it is vital that employers understand their legal responsibility for assessing stress and crucially acting upon the findings. Helpful areas that can minimise stress could involve someone in the way they do their work, dealing with unacceptable behaviour, ensuring people know their role clearly, valuing their contribution and finally ensuring effective communication of any change that is being implemented.

start by asking two simple questions “Are you alright?” then “How are you really?”

We must do more in the prevention of this stress and allow colleagues, especially line managers, to feel confident and informed to start the important conversation with anyone in their team showing signs of stress or seeking help. The more openly mental health and stress is discussed especially in this male dominated environment, the less people should feel the burden of stigma. The same applies to apprentices entering the profession used to discussing their feelings through their education system, and yet are often met with a different culture when arriving on site. These are the line managers of the future, and the change can start today. Currently we know that people don’t come forward because it might be seen as a ‘weakness’, with a fear that it will be career-limiting or that someone might be seen as less than competent in their role. But someone worried about the impact of coming forwards can be avoided and that is where Mates in Mind can help. Across our supporters, we have seen the significant impact on recruitment, retention, productivity and staff morale that working with us has had in their workplace. So please help us to get people talking – all it takes to start is by asking two simple questions “Are you alright?” then “How are you really?”

Find out more about Mates in Mind

For specific advice on stress and mental health for those working in the construction sector visit: Mates in Mind.
Further information about the recent research mentioned above can be found here: research revealed a third of construction workers now suffer with anxiety and a webinar on the topic here.