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Raising awareness of mental health issues within construction – Crossrail Limited case study

Ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) has been looking to raise awareness of the true extent of mental health issues in the construction industry. Statistics show that ten per cent of all suicides in the UK happen within the sector and that workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than from a fall from height.

Clive Johnson, Health in Construction Leadership Group, explains: “We want the industry to look after their workforce and to see talking about things, as a strength rather than a weakness, and to stamp out the ‘it’s not happening to me’ mentality.”

Mental Health First Aid is a training course designed to teach how to spot the signs of mental ill health so that the individual experiencing mental health issues can be guided towards help and assistance and Crossrail Limited is one company that has been looking to play its part.

Case Study

Crossrail Limited is building a new railway for London and the South-East. It will be known as the Elizabeth line when services commence in December 2018, and will carry over 200m people a year between Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east via through 42km of new tunnels under London.

With men three more times likely to die by suicide than their female counterparts, the case for prioritising mental health wellbeing in the current male dominated construction industry is clear.

As the largest infrastructure project in Europe, with over 10,000 people working across over 40 construction sites, Crossrail is in an ideal position to lead by example and leave a positive legacy for the infrastructure and construction sector in the provision of mental health.

As part of the company’s health and wellbeing strategy, 12 of Crossrail’s staff are now trained Mental Health First Aiders, and 90 more have undertaken Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s one day mental health awareness course.

Started offering mental health training: October 2015  

Staff trained so far: 102

Why we train our staff in Mental Health First Aid

Health and Safety is Crossrail’s number one value. As part of its ‘target zero’ approach  emphasising that everyone has the right to go home every day unharmed, Crossrail Limited has embedded a health and safety culture into all aspects of the project.

The decision to train staff in Mental Health First Aid followed the results of a survey showing that Crossrail staff have the same mental health and wellbeing profile as the general population. From this, the project assumed that its population will have the same risk of experiencing a mental health problem as the general population, which is one in four.

Christina Butterworth, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Strategy Lead at Crossrail, explains: “Mental ill health can affect anyone. As an organisation we wanted to ensure that employees had people to talk to about whatever they might be going through and to give staff the skills to support people experiencing mental health issues.”

Results

The business has since trained 12 employees to become Mental Health First Aiders and so far 90 line managers have taken part in MHFA England’s one day mental health awareness course. An additional 12 Crossrail employees have signed up to train as Mental Health First Aiders before the end of the year. Christina receives consistently good feedback around the mental health support offered by the business.

Christina explains: “Many of our volunteers are team administrators as they are often the first people that colleagues approach to get a question answered or to find out where to go to get further information. Their training gives them the skills and confidence to help those colleagues while looking after their own wellbeing.”

Alongside the MHFA training, Crossrail holds a project-wide ‘Stepping Up Week’ twice a year; a period dedicated to health and safety for everyone who works on Crossrail whether than be on a construction site or in an office. As part of Crossrail’s commitment to this area of wellbeing, last October’s Stepping Up Week focused on mental health.

Crossrail employ a number of other initiatives to address the stigma of mental health amongst its workforce including online training, practical workshops on personal resilience, stress management, fatigue, nutrition, exercise and mindfulness. Additionally the business is engaged with various networks and campaigns to ensure good practice and shared learning, including Public Health Responsibility Deal, Time to Talk, London Health & Wellbeing Week, City Mental Health Alliance and Business in the Community. Crossrail also offers the opportunity for staff to engage on their personal and business mental health requirements, through the Crossrail-wide wellbeing survey, as well as feedback sessions on all initiatives.crossrail-2

Crossrail is dedicated to improving health provision in the construction industry as a whole, with all members of its supply chain contractually bound to have their own individual wellbeing programme, with wellbeing co-ordinators at every site. In addition the project has signed up to the London Healthy Workplace Charter, is a member of the Health in Construction Leadership Group, and offers employees resilience workshops.

What the future holds

The Crossrail programme is now over 75 per cent complete with services through central London due to open in December 2018. Crossrail Limited is intent on leaving a legacy for how organisations can get mental health provision up and running in their workplace. Lessons learnt by the Crossrail project, ranging from their Health and Wellbeing strategy to technical construction documents, will be published at learninglegacy.crossrail.co.uk.


To find out how employers can support the wellbeing of their staff and demonstrate their commitment to World Mental Health Day, click here and download the free Mental Health First Aid England Take 10 Together toolkit.