The construction industry is notorious for being the field of work with the greatest number of fatalities and injuries. But even more work days are lost to mental health matters. The industry is well-known for its “masculine” image which could mean that some workers are reluctant to admit to stress, depression or anxiety. As a direct result of this, they may not seek and receive the help that they need.

The construction industry is highly competitive and many people within this field of work feel the pressure of having to reach set targets. Also, most people in construction work on a freelance basis; working from contract to contract. The knowledge of job insecurity could also contribute to stress, depression and anxiety.

Mental health within the workplace is a growing issue. Around 10 million people experience a mental health issue each year in the UK .

Even though more and more people are talking about mental health in the workplace, it is still a taboo subject and the stigma remains.

With one in six working adults, per week, experiencing a mental health issue and a calculated 12.7% of all sickness days in the UK being accredited to mental health conditions ; it costs UK employers around £26 billion per year through staff absences. 

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To help tackle the stigma, MHFA England is calling on everyone to “Take 10 Together” and have a 10-minute conversation with a friend, family member, or colleague to start a conversation about mental health and find out more about Mental Health First Aid. 

Mental Health First Aid is the mental health equivalent of a physical first aid course. It teaches people the skills and confidence to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support.

It might seem a little daunting to start a conversation about mental health but it’s important to remember you don’t have to be an expert. Here are some practical tips for how you can start the conversation:

Choose a setting
Make a cup of tea, coffee or grab a cup of water. Whichever you choose it’s a great way to ask someone a quick “how are you” and ask for a private meeting.

Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t appear to be in a hurry. 10 minutes may be enough but if you need longer then go ahead.

You don’t want to be disturbed so turn your phone off or onto silent.

Meeting outside the workplace in a neutral space such as a café might feel less intimidating.   

 How to ask the questions    

Keep the chat positive and supportive, exploring the issues and how you may be able to help.

Keep your body language open and non-confrontational.

Be empathetic and take them seriously.

Do not offer glib advice such as “pull yourself together” or “cheer up”.

Take into account cultural differences in communication styles such as how much eye contact is appropriate. 

Useful questions to ask 

"How are you feeling at the moment?"

“How long have you felt like this – is it an ongoing issue?”

“Who do you feel you can go to for support?"

“Are there any work-related factors which are contributing to how you are feeling?”

"Is there anything we can do to help?"   

How to listen
Give the person your full focus and listen without interrupting.

Listen to their words, tone of voice and body language - all will give clues to how they are feeling.

Once you’ve started the conversation, make sure you keep it going. Follow up with the person and ask them how they are doing. Reassure them that your door is always open, and really mean it. It’s particularly essential to keep in touch with an employee who is off sick.

Give reassurance that there are lots of sources of support and some of these might be available via the HR or occupational health department, employee assisted programmes or onsite counselling. If you work in a company with limited support services it’s also appropriate to encourage the person to visit their GP for guidance around accessing the NHS funded programme “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies”.  

For more guidance, around how to approach and respond to a colleague who is experiencing a mental health issue download the free Line Managers Resource by clicking here.

To find out how employers can support the wellbeing of their staff and demonstrate their commitment to World Mental Health Day, visit and download the free MHFA England Take 10 Together toolkit.    

Health in Construction Leadership Group was set up in 2015 as a direct response to research presented at the 2015 Construction Industry Advisory Committee (ConIAC), which exposed the high number of occupational health deaths in the sector, with construction workers in the UK 100 times more likely to die from an occupational illness than a workplace accident.

Good mental health needs to be a priority for every business and implementing it needs to involve people from senior levels. It is important that conversations about mental health and wellbeing are taking place and are put on the agenda for meetings.

“Good mental health is vital to business performance, because when staff feel happy and well cared for, they are more engaged, more motivated and more loyal. As many as a third of employees would consider leaving their job if they didn’t feel looked after by their employer and a further 21% would be less motivated and productive.” -

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