Mental Health in Construction

Mental health in construction workers is a topic that isn’t often covered due to the nature of the working environment. However, the mental health of all workers in all sectors should be paramount to employers and having an open-door approach is a great way to get your employees to talk about issues they may have.

Construction work can mean workers are often exposed to high-pressure situations, such as working from height in windy conditions or having to use potentially dangerous machinery. These situations can be stressful enough but can be made ten times worth if the correct health & safety procedures and equipment aren’t available or put in place.

Another big contributor for stress in construction can be late payments, meaning you and your employees might be strained financially which can cause a lot of stress and pressure on you the employer as well as your employee that you’re responsible for.

The Statistics:

Suicide is the biggest killer for males under 45 in the UK and according to an article published by the Holistic healthcare group those that work in construction are three times more likely to commit suicide than other industries.

The article also states that:

  • Suicide kills more construction workers than falls every year.
  • Depression and anxiety have overtaken musculoskeletal disorders in construction workers.
  • According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 13,232 in-work suicides between 2011 and 2015. The construction industry accounted for 13.2% of them, despite only accounting for 7% of the total UK workforce.
  • 23% of construction workers are considering leaving the industry in the next 12 months due to poor mental health.
  • 73% of all construction workers feel that their employers did not understand or recognise the early signs of poor mental health or offer any support.

Between 2011 and 2015, the Office of National Statistics stated that of the 13,232 in-work suicides, the construction industry accounted for 13.2% of these. This comes despite the industry accounting for, at the time, roughly 7% of the UK workforce.

An article posted on the HR director website states that in a 2017 survey, 73% of construction workers felt their employers did not recognise the early signs of mental health. Consequently, 23% of those surveyed were considering leaving the industry, in the next 12 months, due to poor mental health.


Spotting Stress, Depression & Anxiety

Despite not being one you would expect, according to the HSE’s 2018/19 report, there were an estimated 16,000 work-related cases of stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing), which made up a quarter of all ill health in this Sector.

It is incredibly important to make sure that anyone working on your sites is comfortable in the environment they’re working in. That means they’re being treated fairly and respected by their colleagues, feeling safe with the machinery or tasks they have been asked to complete and also making sure they’re not subject to discriminatory behaviour.

Looking out for anyone that may not be acting themselves is something that is hard to do and creating an ‘open door to management’ environment within the construction industry isn’t easy, but if you do spot anyone showing signs of anxiety or depression it’s worth taking them to one side over a cup of coffee and asking that they’re ok.

Signs of anxiety and depression:

  • Loss of interest or no longer finding pleasure in activities or hobbies
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
  • Anger, irritability, or restlessness
  • Feeling guilty or experiencing feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
  • Difficulty controlling worry or fear
  • Dread
  • Panic

Taking actions:

Make sure if anyone is showing signs of anxiety, depression or stress on-site that you’re open with them and ask if everyone is ok or what the issue may be, although this can be difficult in the construction industry due to the nature and environment that those work in.

Another good option that could be worth your time is to set up an employee assistance programme (EAP) where employees are able to talk to someone about the issues they may be facing anonymously and making sure staff are aware of the EAP system and how to go about speaking to someone.

For more help on setting up EAP, check out this guide from our sister company Citation.