August 5, 2021

Mental Health First Aid England responds to mental health crisis within construction

In light of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)’s shocking recent announcement that one in four construction workers considered suicide in 2019, even before the Covid-19 pandemic had hit the industry, Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, outlines what needs to be done to address such a startling issue.

The findings of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) report are truly sobering. We must do all we can to come together and tackle this crisis, particularly as we know the current climate will be adding extra stress and strain to all our lives.

As many in the sector begin to return to work, these extra concerns – caring responsibilities, financial worries, health concerns, or worries about safety in their workplace or travel routes – will not disappear overnight. Employers must recognise the need to focus on people management, allow flexible and reasonable adjustments to accommodate, and keep an open line of communication with their workforce on these concerns.

Stigma is a huge barrier in the sector and too many are suffering in silence. Through our work in the sector, we know the positive impact Mental Health First Aid training has in raising awareness, improving signposting and increasing uptake of support, as well as empowering people to access the help they need to recover and stay well. We’re calling on almost 500,000 people we’ve trained in Mental Health First Aid skills to use their skills and reach out in person, online, or over the phone to support those struggling with their mental health.

We have also seen great progress in increasing mental health literacy and skills through the Building Mental Health initiative, with Mental Health First Aid training funded by the Construction Industry Training Board. This is why we strongly advocate the report’s recommendation to update the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 to ensure workplaces make provisions for Mental Health First Aid.

It is important to remember, however, that evidence-based training like Mental Health First Aid is just one part of a whole organisation approach to workplace mental health and wellbeing. Healthy job design, flexible working arrangements where possible, fatigue management plans, and access to further resources such as an EAP or the Construction Industry Helpline are all important considerations. It is also vital that people feel able to bring their whole self to work and create a culture where people can ask for help, without fear of stigma.

To support organisations with their mental health strategy and culture we provide free guidance, which we have updated for remote working, on implementing our training as part of a whole organisation approach, in line with Thriving at Work’s core standards.

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