Helping to enhance careers

This World Mental Health Day, Mental ill health in the Construction Industry is a collective responsibility

The state of our nation’s mental health, or lack of it, is never far from the news. Positively, awareness around its issues has risen in the last few years. With a lot of high-profile celebrities speaking about their own struggles and encouraging people to seek help, the stigma around mental health issues is abating and more people are now talking about it. Now that today is World Mental Health Day, the conversation has, again, been reignited.

World Mental Health Day falls on 10 October every year. It has an overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health. The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. Specifically for World Mental Health Day 2018, the theme is Young people and mental health in a changing world. Adolescence and the early years of adulthood are a time of life when many changes occur, for example changing/leaving schools, leaving home, starting and completing university and embarking on the first steps of a potential life-long career. For many, these are exciting times. But, they can also be times of stress and apprehension. And in some cases, if not recognized and managed, these feelings can lead to mental illness.

Focusing on those young adults taking their first steps into the world of employment, it has been estimated that approximately 1 in 4 people suffers from mental health issues and it is something that employers cannot (and should not) ignore. Amongst their new hires as well as their seasoned employees. It has been proven that being employed has a positive impact on mental health but if that job comes with a negative or a perceived negative working environment, it can actually lead to mental health problems. This, in turn, can have knock-on effects such as harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity. Not to mention the effect this can have on future career prospects for those impressionable and potentially overwhelmed new hires. But, workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains. For more information about mental health in the workplace, see the WHO information sheet here.

The Construction industry is by no means isolated from the above, particularly considering some of the events that affected the industry in the last year – Grenfell and the collapse of Carilion to name just a few. According to Construction News’ 2018 Mind Matters survey, 57% of responders had experienced mental ill health at one point, with 42% experiencing issues at their current place of work. This number is even higher when looking at the junior members of staff with two thirds (68%) experiencing mental health issues and nearly one in three (31%) contemplating suicide. A figure that is still shockingly one in four for the industry as a whole (Source:

Luckily this hasn’t gone unnoticed and a number of initiatives are in place to continue to help raise more awareness and improve and promote positive mental health across the sector. Two such initiatives are Mind Matters from Construction News and Mates in mind – an exciting partnership between the Health in Construction Leadership Group and British Safety Council, alongside some key mental health charities – MHFA, Mind and the Samaritans. Players in the industry are also introducing psychological ‘nudge’ techniques to instil subtle positive changes in the behaviour and mindset of their workforce. And poignantly, for the graduates in the industry, Skanska has adopted specific Mental Health training as part of their graduate and apprenticeship induction programmes. This aims to ensure the younger members of staff going into the organisation know exactly what the company’s approach to mental health is and what to do if they feel they have a problem.

There are also multiple factors within the construction industry which could be said contribute to these figures: high pressurised environments, payment concerns, tender deadlines etc. Also sometimes in this sector, with it being vastly project related, team members can be so focused on getting to the end result that they overlook staffing issues that they may perceive to be on the periphery but are actually staring them in the face. In this instance, shouldn’t we all, regardless of our industry, take a step back from chasing milestones to ensure that our colleagues around us are mentally well equipped to help contribute to their own success and their company’s?

With our role in the construction industry primarily dealing with people – collaborating, informing and supporting them in pursuing quality opportunities that will help to enhance their careers – we are very conscious of the statistics. We recognise that making or considering a job move can be stressful and challenging and how our role, when done correctly, can help set up a young construction professional on a promising and healthy career path for them. The industry has a collective responsibility to not lose sight of the issues workers may be facing and that the support they need is available to them.

For more information see: