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New text service launched to get tradespeople talking about mental health

A new text service has been launched by the charity Band of Builders as part of a growing campaign to get tradespeople to open up about their mental health over a cuppa. 

The new service coincides with the return of the Big Brew – an industry-wide campaign led by the charity in a bid to shine a spotlight on the mental health crisis in construction, where two people are thought to take their own lives every day.

Launched last year and returning this October, the Big Brew aims to encourage more tradespeople and contractors to come together over a cuppa as the first step in seeking help with a range of issues from general anxiety – due to factors such as the cost-of-living crisis – to suicidal thoughts.

More than 250 Big Brew events are expected to take place in builders’ merchants and on construction sites across the UK, building on last year’s campaign and encouraging more people to seek help where needed. 

New text service and tea scale

To build on the success of last year’s Big Brew campaign in highlighting issues with mental health in the construction industry, Band of Builders has launched a new text line so that tradespeople, contractors and their families struggling to open up in person can text BOB to 85258 at any time to get much-needed help.

Also new for this year is the Big Brew tea scale (an image of different strengths of cups of tea seen below), which will act as an icebreaker to start conversations where tradespeople can ask one another where they rank on the scale.

The Big Brew – which is sponsored by Big Red Construction – is an initiative by national construction charity Band of Builders, a registered charity that helps members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury through the completion of practical projects carried out by volunteer tradespeople using donated materials. The event aims to build on last year’s inaugural event, which saw more than 175 events held and raised enough money to fund a new free construction industry-only counselling service for two years.

Events are being held in October to coincide with World Mental Health Day, and the Big Brew organisers point to shocking figures that highlight the scale of the mental health crisis in construction.

Shocking figures

●     UK construction sector workers are nearly three times as likely to die by suicide than their counterparts in other industries.

●     The suicide rate of UK construction workers is estimated to be as high as two people every day.

●     Mental health issues are responsible for approximately a £37 billion cost to the UK construction industry every year.

●     90% of construction managers have struggled with their mental health.
Finding from a survey jointly organised by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA)

●     In the UK alone, 400,000 working days were lost to mental health issues in 2018 (55% of all days lost). Data from HSE

Peter Cape, the Big Brew lead at Band of Builders, can’t stress enough how a simple cup of tea or coffee can be the tipping point for tradespeople and contractors to open up to one another about their mental health.

“The first ever Big Brew highlighted just how much the construction industry was crying out for something that gave tradespeople the outlet to get together over a cuppa and discuss the wider issue of mental health and wellbeing – and open up individually to workmates or even staff at their local builders’ merchants,” said Peter.

“The campaign is proving to be a vital lifeline at a time when suicide rates in the sector were already at one per day before the COVID pandemic – according to ONS figures – and it’s widely accepted that these have worsened to closer to two per day.

“The challenge has been to make it as easy as possible for tradespeople and contractors to take that all-important first step and reach out for help. The new tea scale is a great icebreaker, prompting people to ask where their mental health is on the scale. And if someone isn’t in a place where they can open up face to face, the new text service is another way to get the ball rolling in seeking help.

“It’s fair to say that construction workers, like everyone else in the UK, are facing difficult times with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, so it’s more important than ever that they have somewhere to turn to if they need to talk – whether that’s in person or via text.”

Peter thanked the construction industry for its ongoing support of the campaign. 

“The industry’s reaction to the Big Brew has been incredible, with companies including the likes of Big Red Construction, Jewson, Talasey, DeWalt and Williams all supporting the campaign, hosting events and spreading the message to their customers and clients,” he added.

“We know from feedback from last year that the Big Brew has already changed people’s lives – with tradespeople and contractors telling us that a simple cuppa with a workmate had been that all-important first step in admitting they were having issues with their mental health. In a few cases, there were people who were in crisis.”

Mike Lomas, Managing Director of Big Red Industries, praised the trailblazing work of the Big Brew and said that Big Red Construction was proud to be a supporter of a “brilliantly simple” campaign.

He said: “Through partnering with Band of Builders on this remarkable campaign, we hope not only to increase awareness of the mental health support services that are available but also to encourage other construction companies to join us in being part of the change. Big Red, big change.” 

To register interest in hosting a Big Brew event, visit https://bandofbuilders.org, and you can join in the conversation online by using the hashtag #GiveYourselfABreak.

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