March 22, 2019

Construction company launches mental health awareness initiative

(L-R) Linzi Chellew, SHEQ Officer, Anthony Thomas, Managing Director and Carl Woodward, SHEQ Manager

In response to numerous reports highlighting the challenge of mental health in the construction industry, ASW Property Services, a property services specialist covering Wales, the Midlands and the South-West of England, has unveiled a new strategy designed to support employees with mental health conditions.

The Office for National Statistics recently published figures showing the suicide rate in the construction industry is higher than in any other profession. This problem is backed up by a recent mental health survey by Construction News, which showed that nearly a third (30%) of construction workers in the UK have taken time off work due to mental health issues over the past 12 months.

As part of the company’s mental health awareness campaign, ASW now offers mental health and stress awareness sessions for its employees. The project kick-started with Mental Health in Construction sessions run by the Working Well Together (WWT) group, as part of its white van tour campaign for 2018 and Gofal, a leading mental health and wellbeing charity.

ASW also provide information packs and videos on the mental health support available as part of its company induction and site induction, given to all new starters (both office and site based) and sub-contractors.

Showing commitment to the project long-term, the company has recently pledged an annual donation to The Lighthouse Club, a charity that provides financial and emotional support to the construction community and their families and will organise a ‘Lighthouse Day’ next year to raise funds for the charity.

The company has also trained two staff as Mental Health First Aiders. Linzi Chellew and Carl Woodward are trained to offer support sessions and give advice to employees (and sub-contractors) suffering from mental health issues.

Linzi Chellew, Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Officer at ASW, said that a big driver for the campaign is the fact that statistics show a high percentage of males in the construction industry do not feel comfortable informing their employer of their mental health issues. The Construction News survey showed that 63% of individuals who have taken time off because of a mental health issue, have hidden the real reason for their absence from their employer.

Linzi Chellew said: “I have worked in the construction industry for over ten years, and I have seen first-hand how the pressure of dealing with mental health conditions can impact an employee. As construction is seen as a male dominated industry, there comes the stereotypical expectation that males do not tend to talk about emotions in the same way females do, and that mental ill-health is a sign of weakness, forming a stigma.

“This stigma stops people getting the help they need and therefore poses a risk. Like any risk, ideally it should be eliminated and we as a company are passionate about breaking down the barriers and making this happen. The statistics available are shocking – this really hit home, becoming the main driving force behind ASW’s mental health awareness campaign.

“We are currently developing our policies to reflect mental health awareness and to highlight the support we offer as a company to all employees and sub-contractors working on our sites.”

Anthony Thomas, Managing Director of ASW, said: “Mental health is a subject very close to me. My staff are my priority and I want to support every single employee that is suffering from mental health conditions. The statistics showing the construction industry obtains more suicides than any other profession speaks for itself – more support needs to be offered and it is time the stigma surrounding mental health in a male dominated industry is removed.

“I am extremely proud of all of my staff – both for working together to provide this support via our mental health awareness campaign and the company’s workers, both office and site based, who have embraced the training and support facility and have already began using it. The feedback we have had makes it all worthwhile.”