In his latest column for Total Installer, Jon Vanstone explains why we need a collective focus on mental health in the construction sector
Every single working day in the UK, two construction workers take their own life, with 30 fatalities last year taking place on our building sites.
The suicide rate for men in England and Wales in 2019 was the highest for two decades and this could be even worse at the end of 2020.
The ONS said men accounted for about three-quarters of suicide deaths registered in 2019, 4,303 compared with 1,388 women. Our industry is hugely male-dominated and is part of a construction industry that has a suicide rate of 3 times above the national average.
The headlines are shocking, but we need to remember that the impact on the SME and micro businesses is yet further compounded by feelings of loneliness and isolation from too often working alone.
The Covid pandemic has increased the pressure on businesses and the individuals within it to a collective level unseen since the 2008 recession.
The SME and micro workers’ business is often the lifeblood for a family and restrictions from lockdowns, lack of material supply and uncertain economic trading has made 2020 a miserable year for far too many people.
With a research showing that stress can drive an increase in the intake of drink, drugs and online gambling, it means that one problem can rapidly become two or three. Our industry is facing a substantial crisis that too often is reported as a massive productivity issue and lost days of work, when we should really be considering the effect it has on home life for families throughout the country.
Certass is the home of the local tradespeople and we have been alarmed to see how the issue of mental health has slipped down many agendas due to economic pressures, when in fact it is the very time it needs to be highlighted.
It is for this reason that we will be spending a lot of time in this supposedly ‘festive’ season campaigning for greater support from government. Christmas can be a terrible time for those suffering from mental health concerns, often carrying stresses into the family unit.
Uncertainty over jobs and finances has been a focus from government since March, but as an industry, we need to collectively help those who are struggling. Too often we avoid the difficult conversations but noticing that someone may be suffering can make all the difference. As men, we tend to avoid talking about how we feel and being given the opportunity may be the push we need.
2020 has been a very tough year for many with continual worries about job losses, and perhaps even your business. It can create a fear of not being able to pay the mortgage or rent as well as a general inability to support the family.
Many of us talk about the desire to get out of 2020 with a hope that 2021 will bring virus cures, greater strength within the supply chain and a more certain economy. However, we must be aware that some, through depression and other mental health issues, will not make it and together we can do more to prevent this.
If you are struggling, I would urge you to look at Lighthouse Club website (www.lighthouseclub.org) or download the Construction Industry Helpline app. If you feel have no one to talk to but want to chat to someone then please call the Construction Industry helpline on 0345 605 1956.
If you know someone, who may be struggling, offering a friendly ear is a great thing to do for your friend or colleague, with countless stories in the media of this simple act being the differentiator between life and death.
Certass will be working with the Lighthouse Club and helping to test a new video and information which we hope will help raise awareness in our industry. We will be lobbying Government for support specifically for glazing as too often, existing funds seem to miss our sector. And we are committed to help make a difference.
If you wish to get involved then please contact myself at Certass, as together we can give something back that will be more than just talk.