It is widely reported that when it comes to suicide, the figures around people taking their own lives are starkly disproportionate within the UK construction industry.
Did you know that the risk of suicide among male workers, particularly those working in construction roles, is three times higher than the male national average?
Males working in the lowest-skilled occupations have a 44% higher risk of suicide than the male national average, and the risk among males in skilled trades is 35% higher. The highest risk is amongst building finishing trades; particularly, plasterers and painters and decorators, who are at more than double the risk of suicide than the male national *.
The reasons behind this discrepancy are complex and most of the time there is no single event or factor that leads someone to take their own life. While we can’t tackle these myriad factors, we can focus on early intervention and prevention.
We can work on how we, as an industry, can move towards creating an open, healthy culture where colleagues feel they can talk to one another without shame. We can all start treating mental health as seriously as we do our physical health, which is monitored with stringent health and safety procedures and policies.
This year has been a tough one for most of us and there is a fear that mental health cases will rise long after the pandemic is declared over. Many people have become socially isolated, with lockdown and working restrictions leaving them unable to reach out to friends and family. Sometimes, our colleagues might be the only people we see or speak to for weeks at a time.
We all have a responsibility to make sure that our teams are happy and healthy and if they’re not, to step up and support them. It’s also important to be mindful around the way we speak to one another; dismissive lines such as ‘man up’ when someone is sharing how they feel can be incredibly unhelpful.
For our team here at Ring Stones, talking about mental health isn’t just a one-off occurrence. We hold regular events, such as State of Mind presentations and training, so that our teams can discuss any worries and address any questions they may have, alongside raising awareness and dispelling any outdated stigma surrounding these topics.
I recently completed training to become a mental health first aider. This is something that I hope will serve as an invitation for my colleagues to come and talk to me in confidence. I want to create a safe space for them to have an honest conversation, especially when they may be feeling particularly vulnerable and are perhaps not used to ‘opening up’ in the workplace.
Of course, this doesn’t make me an expert in the field. What it will do is ensure that I can support and signpost my colleagues to professional services who can then provide any help that is needed.
Let’s keep on talking and working together to help bring these conversations out of the shadows. If you are struggling with your mental health, Samaritans can offer free, confidential advice.
Telephone – 116 123
James Macaree, Assistant Director at Ring Stones