15 May 2023
As we approach Mental Health Awareness Week, we turn our focus to the importance of mental health awareness in construction.
Two members of XYZ Reality's own internal mental health initiative – Rupert Warries, Lead Product Designer, and Stephen Webb, Field Operations Manager – share their insights, shedding light on the unique challenges faced by construction professionals and how we can foster a supportive environment of mental wellbeing.
It's important to acknowledge the sobering statistics that come with these challenges. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that construction has the second highest suicide rate of all industries. This issue is further exacerbated by the industry stigma surrounding mental health and seeking help.
Long hours, high expectations and an unforgiving work environment are major contributing factors to job pressures which lead to mental health struggles; workers are often tasked with completing seemingly impossible tasks under tight timelines and budget constraints.
“On hyperscale projects, quite commonly you see people working 10-14 hour days,” Stephen says. “Some workers arrive onsite at 6:00 in the morning and don’t leave until 8 at night. That’s going to eventually take a toll over months and years."
The issue lies in the perception that these conditions are normal, and anyone falling short of working these types of hours is judged as not pulling their weight.
Additionally, to make the issue worse, alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism, leading to a vicious cycle of poor sleep and increased stress, ultimately contributing to more serious mental health conditions.
The construction industry, a traditionally male-dominated sector and historically resistant to change, has always grappled with the stigma attached to mental health, but there's hope on the horizon for positive transformation.
"In the last 10 or 20 years, massive strides have been made toward de-stigmatization,” Rupert says. “Especially when related to traditional expectations of masculinity, which are very destructive when it comes to mental health.”
Stephen Webb confirms that mindfulness has increased in recent years, with large corporations implementing mental health initiatives and awareness days.
He shares an example from a recent worksite, where all the contractors took part in a football tournament. Each contractor contributed £25, and all the participating companies donated money as well. The total amount collected was then donated to mental health charities.
While efforts such as these unite the industry for an important cause, fostering camaraderie and breaking down barriers, there's still a long way to go in encouraging people to open up about their struggles and seek support.
To enhance mental health wellbeing in the construction industry, it’s essential to promote a culture of open communication and understanding among employees.
This shift should be driven by top-level management, setting the tone for a supportive environment where discussing personal difficulties is not only accepted but actively encouraged.
Further, creating a supportive work environment involves breaking down stigmas and misconceptions.
"It’s about tackling the belief that personal struggles equate to weakness,” Rupert says. “We must also stop seeing physical and mental health as two separate things – they are one and the same, after all, and must be addressed as a unified whole.”
At XYZ, we are committed to prioritizing mental health by raising awareness and providing support for our wonderful team members. As part of our ongoing efforts, we are currently building a sizable bank of international mental health resources and access points, which will be ready to share with our employees during Mental Health Awareness Week. We have also organized a series of activities during Mental Health Awareness Week, including coffee mornings to encourage open conversation and breathing classes to teach relaxation techniques.
We’re dedicated to creating a culture that values wellbeing and are exploring ways to take these initiatives to our project sites worldwide.
The construction industry faces a unique set of mental health challenges. But with a shift towards more supportive work environments and open dialogue, together we can make a huge difference, breaking down stigmas and misconceptions surrounding mental health and creating a healthier, more understanding industry for all.
If you’re struggling with mental health challenges or would simply like some additional information about mental health resources, please visit:
National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) (US) – https://www.nami.org/help
FindTreatment (US) – https://findtreatment.gov/
Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (US) – https://preventconstructionsuicide.com/
Veterans Crisis Line (US) – https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
MIND (UK) – https://www.mind.org.uk/
Andy’s Man Club (UK): https://andysmanclub.co.uk/
Mates in Mind (UK): https://www.matesinmind.org/
Teac Tom (Ireland): https://www.thethomashayestrus...