The insights for mental health and suicide for construction workers is truly upsetting. We’ll put this into context, this is a male-heavy industry, and the suicide rate for men is 3 times higher than for women. Construction workers are also at working age, and suicide is the leading cause of death for males under 60. Whatever the explanations, it makes total sense to suggest that a massive suicide prevention initiative needs to happen in this industry.
If you think of health and safety in the construction industry you think of hard hats, safety harnesses, ear defenders, face masks etc, You do not think of a mental health or wellbeing policy and yet from April 2015 to April 2016, there were just over 40 workplace accident fatalities but over 400 deaths by suicide from construction workers.
Here are some factors that may have caused some suicide in the construction industry:
- Low pay
- Insecure work/job security
- Poor personal relationships
- Long hours
- Only a few days off/holidays
- Poor self-care – sleep, diet, relaxation
And so many more. There are many risks that need to be taken when starting a job in the construction industry, especially taking into consideration that you’re possibly not going to have as much family time with your loved ones if you are in a more demanding role. Understanding the issues will help to find ways to make a difference. These deaths are not inevitable, changes to wellbeing at work practices can make a difference. Just as previous health and safety policies have saved a lot of lives, attention now needs to focus on the far more likely cause of death in the construction industry.
Mates in Mind, a relatively new charity (2017) aims to raise awareness, address the stigma of poor mental health and improve positive mental wellbeing in the UK construction industry.
It has a goal to reach 100,000 in its first year and 75% of the workers by 2025. It aims to be a repository of information and advice for employers who want to improve mental wellbeing and is doing this in partnership with organisations who are experts in these fields such as Mind, Samaritans and Mental Health First Aid England.
The business costs of mental ill health:
- £8.4 billion a year in sickness absence 400,000 lost working days in the construction industry for stress, anxiety and depression alone.
- £15.1 billion a year in reduced productivity at work
- Presenteeism accounts for 1.5 times as much working time lost as absenteeism and costs more to employers because it is more common among higher-paid staff.
- £2.4 billion a year in replacing staff who leave their jobs because of mental ill health (staff retention is increasingly important in many areas where skills are in short supply)
- 91 million days are lost each year due to mental health problems.
Around 79,000 workers report an illness each year and over a million working days are lost each year in construction due to work-related illnesses. Every year more working days are lost in construction due to work-related illness than due to injuries caused by accidents. The statistics tell us that construction is a high-risk industry for health issues as well as for safety-related matters.
Hidden in the statistics relating to health is a surprising figure; of the estimated 79,000 cases of reported illness in the construction industry, 18% of these relate to stress, depression or anxiety —amounting to 400,000 days lost each year.