We’re losing two construction workers every working day to suicide,” says Bill Hill, CEO of The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, adding that “the industry has a moral obligation” to tackle this problem.
Reasons for this high rate of mental ill health in construction can include long stretches of working away from home. Additionally, 57% of the population within construction are self-employed or agency workers and are often anxious about where the next project or paycheck is coming from.
The construction industry is also overwhelmingly male – 87% – and Hill says many men engage in unhealthy behaviours such as eating poor diets, drinking alcohol and smoking. Added to this is the persistent stoic beliefs that men should manage their problems in silence. “You put all that into the whole mix, and you can see why there are quite so many issues.”
Hill believes that “everyone has an antenna to recognise when somebody is struggling”, however, there are signs to look out for such as “sharp changes in mood” – being quick to anger or increased irritability – or shifts in behaviours.
A talkative coworker who becomes withdrawn, a cautious worker who now takes risks, or a punctual worker now frequently late could all point to underlying problems. However, there could also have been practical reasons for such changes.
The point is you need to ask the question: Is anything troubling you? This opens up the conversation. Hill says: “We have a collective responsibility to look after your neighbour, at work and at home.”
The golden nuggets
Hill offers three golden nuggets anyone can use to provide immediate support to others:
- Always ask twice: Don’t accept the ﬁrst response, ask them again and wait for their answer. Show them you’re listening;
- Try to understand before you seek to be understood: See their perspective before chiming in; and
- Always be kind: Even if a difficult conversation needs to be had, doing so kindly can make a signiﬁcant difference.
Longer-term support can be sought from the Lighthouse Club, which has pledged that no UK construction worker and their family will ever be alone in a crisis. It runs free courses and conﬁdential 24/7 helplines in the UK and Ireland.
The Lighthouse Club also supports construction companies to provide their employees with toolsets for self-help and for seeking help, as well as formalised employee assistance programmes (EAPs). The charity is encouraging building ﬁrms to educate staff in resilience, stress management, work-life balance, mindfulness and self-expression skills.
The Construction Industry Helpline app
Hill says businesses should appoint an onsite mental health champion who employees trust and who is able to point them to helpful resources. One such resource is the Lighthouse Club’s Construction Industry Helpline app, which is available for free on iOS and Android and provides advice for mental, physical and ﬁnancial wellbeing.
The app is designed to be a self-help tool that makes it easy to find more information on all aspects of wellbeing, and provides guidance on how users can help themselves, as well as how to contact professionals for assistance if required.
Support the Lighthouse Club
The Lighthouse Club is trying to ensure there is a mental health champion on every site in the UK. However, to achieve its goals and provide free services, the charity relies on donations. We are proud to be a supporter of the Club, which is our National President Jan Etchell's charity of choice for the duration of her tenure.
Those wishing to make a donation to the Lighthouse Club can do so as a one-off, or with a view to providing regular support by visiting their designated donation page.
Alternatively, find your local club and volunteer your time to help those who need it most.