Four FMB members share the ways they are championing mental wellbeing.

Television adverts, conversations on social media and awareness campaigns led by infl uential public figures have made mental health a talking point for many – including for those in the construction industry.

“The industry has changed tremendously,” says Paul Tedder, Director of Atlantic Dwellings, citing mental health coaches, toolbox talks and mental health days as evidence. However, “I still overhear comments about ‘being soft’,” he adds.

Fortunately Tedder and others are trying to bring about change. Of his team of 10, one has trained in mental health awareness and leads toolbox talks and sharing sessions to support staff. “Working through issues helps the individual, the team, the company and the industry become more attractive to a wider range of individuals.”

At Greendale Construction Ltd, Maria Seabright, Finance and HR Director, has created a mental health policy. “As employers we feel a massive responsibility to ensure our employees' mental health is the best it can be,” she says. For example, the policy includes a ban on out-of-hours emails, scheduled mental health chats and an optional ‘midday mile’ – a team walk outside in the fresh air. In addition to the policy, Seabright has sent every manager for mental health awareness training and selected five personnel from the 57-strong team to become qualified mental health first aiders trained by Mental Health First Aid England.

The Lighthouse Club

FMB National President Jan Etchells has chosen the Lighthouse Club — The Construction Industry Charity as the FMB’s official charity partner. Her decision was shaped by the current state of the world. “We’ve got that COVID cloud hanging over our heads,” she says.

Construction professionals have been fortunate to work throughout much of the coronavirus pandemic. But, as Etchells says: "We're under significant pressure and we need support."

Product delays and shortages, fluctuating employment needs and demanding clients – and a global pandemic have added to the stress. “If you're shouldering that yourself, it's quite a difficult place to be,” Etchells says.

If you are struggling with your mental health or know someone else who is, seek help now. Members can support The Lighthouse Club by donating to the FMB’s fundraising appeal.

Join the club

It is encouraging to hear of the growth of local community initiatives and support groups such as The Westerly Club, which aims to support young men through the stresses of life. Members meet virtually every week for a chat about what’s going on in their lives. When lockdown ends, the group will resume physical meet-ups in the North East.

“We offer free advice on topics such as finance, coping with bereavement, healthy eating, exercise, getting access to children or managing divorce problems,” says Chris Carr, Managing Director of Carr & Carr (Builders) Ltd and an Ambassador at the club.

“Most of the time, the guys message the Ambassadors when they are feeling down or troubled about things,” Carr adds. “It’s just about listening to them and letting them know they are not alone.

“If we feel it’s too serious an issue for us to deal with, we pass them on to the professional therapists who manage and oversee the group.”

Carr is promoting the group through his local construction network to help remove the stigma surrounding mental health. “We have a good number of builders in the group."

This article was originally published in the April / May 2021 edition of the Master Builder magazine. Members can login to view a copy, non-members can request the latest copy via email.

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