Interview: Bill Hill, The Lighthouse Club Construction Industry Charity
Bill Hill CEO of the Lighthouse Club Construction Industry Charity talks about shining a light on mental health and supporting the sector through COVID-19.
The Lighthouse Club Construction Industry Charity was set up in 1956 as a benevolent fund for construction workers and their families, offering grants to people who were falling into poverty as a result of accident, injury, ill health, or bereavement.
The charity has expanded over the years and there are now 21 regional Lighthouse Clubs. As it has increased in size, its remit has grown, and it now offers a range of assistance, including mental health support, to those working within the sector.
The Lighthouse Club’s mission is that no construction worker should be left alone in a crisis and that has never been more important than it is right now as builders struggle with the ongoing physical, mental, and economic effects of COVID-19.
It has developed a simple five-step framework that companies can follow in order to create a better mental health culture within their organisation.
Sign the Building Mental Health Charter and make a commitment towards improving mental health in the industry.
“This means the most senior person in the company says it’s a good idea to do something about the mental health of those within their business and is committed to it,” explained the charity’s CEO Bill Hill.
“But you can’t fake it, you can’t sign the charter and pretend you are behind it. You have got to firmly believe that creating a better culture within your company will improve the wellbeing of your workforce and increase productivity.”
Order a Helpline Pack and promote the 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline to your colleagues.
“We were doing some research around mental health of the industry and found out that there were some shocking statistics, so we set up a 24-7 helpline which is available to everyone in the industry free of charge,” explained Bill. "That has been going for four years now and is going from strength to strength.”
The confidential helpline offers information, advice, and guidance on a range of issues, including legal and tax issues, as well as offering financial support.
As well as the frontline team manning the phones there is a team of case workers to manage the more complex cases, and callers can be referred for free telephone counselling sessions, where appropriate.
“The case worker is like a little angel sitting on somebody’s shoulder who will fight every single process to get as much as they can for that individual to help them through, and their whole modus operandi is to get them to a better place,” explained Bill.
There is also a free app, complementing the helpline, providing information, advice and guidance on wellbeing topics including stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and suicidal thoughts. An updated version is being launched soon, covering mental, physical, financial and site wellbeing.
Deliver a ‘Tool Box Talk’ about mental health and wellbeing in your workplace.
Tool Box Talks can give staff the confidence to open conversations with colleagues and approach people if they need help, as well as covering the steps that your company should put in place to create a positive mental health culture.
“Stigma is the biggest wall that we have got to knock down,” said Bill. “86% of the construction sector are males and males often don’t find it easy to talk about what is stressing them out, especially when you get groups of males together. They have these predetermined reactions to certain situations that are inbuilt, and it is about how we look at picking that programming apart and making it okay to talk about things.”
Offer employees who manage people the opportunity to complete Mental Health First Aid training.
The Lighthouse Club is an approved Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) training organisation and offers the full range of training from two-day mental health First Aider courses to Mental Health First Aid instructor courses.
Ensure you have enough Mental Health First Aiders trained for your workplace – recommended 1 per 100 employees.
Mental Health First Aiders learn how to listen, communicate non-judgmentally and signpost colleagues to additional support, giving construction workers the opportunity to speak to somebody face-to-face onsite about their issues.
“We have got 3,000 of those trained up so far but there is a lot more to go,” said Bill. “We want to get the same ratio as you have got for physical First Aiders.”
Supporting the sector
“You can see the picture that we are trying to build of no construction workers left alone in a crisis,” said Bill.
“They have got a self-help tool which is the app, a 24-7 helpline number where they can speak to someone confidentially and anonymously, and mental health first aiders, so we are building all of this around them, so there is no reason why somebody shouldn’t be able to access help and support for their issues.”
The Lighthouse Club recently launched its Construction Crisis Fund to help meet increasing demand and cope with the loss of traditional fundraising sources, during the COVID-19 crisis.
It relies heavily on funds generated from events but with those unable to go ahead due to lockdown guidance the charity has seen its income severely reduced, at a time when demand is at its greatest, with calls to the helpline up by 55% compared with last year.
Every penny donated to the crisis fund will reach the people that really need it and no money will be diverted to charity overheads.
However, Bill recognises that it is a difficult time for many, who will be unable to donate, and urges people who cannot contribute to pass the helpline number on to anybody who may be suffering:
“We understand not everyone is in a position to contribute but please pass our details onto your friends and colleagues because the number is important,” he said.
Get in touch
Call the Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956, or visit constructionindustryhelpline.com to access helpline packs, download the app and find out more about Toolbox Talks and Mental Health First Aid Training.
To donate to the crisis fund visit: https://www.lighthouseclub.org/