Mental Health in the Construction Industry 

Building a Strong Foundation: Addressing Mental Health in the Construction Industry
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Written by Sean Austin
September 19, 2023

In the dynamic and challenging world of construction, the well-being of the workforce is an often overlooked aspect, yet it plays a pivotal role in the industry’s overall success. Mental health issues among construction workers have become a pressing concern, with statistics indicating that they are more susceptible to these challenges compared to the general population. Men account for four out of every five suicides, and suicide stands as the leading cause of death for men below the age of 35, according to the UK Parliament. Disturbingly, in 2020, the construction sector exhibited one of the highest suicide risks in the country, with rates 3.7 times higher than the national average, as reported by the Office for National Statistics. 

The world of construction places workers under a myriad of stressors, ranging from tight contractual obligations and extended working hours to time spent away from family, budget management challenges, and the compounding pressures brought on by the pandemic and escalating supply costs. Compounding this, a significant portion of the UK workforce—over half, including a notable 57% of Millennials—feels uncomfortable disclosing mental health or psychological conditions, as per Reed. This prevailing culture hinders many workers from seeking the support and assistance they may desperately need, exacerbating the strain on their mental health and overall well-being. 

Recognizing the paramount importance of mental health awareness and support for workers is crucial for both employers and individuals. The statistics underscore the pressing need for transformative change within the construction industry. 

Several factors contribute to this alarming trend, Shoal take a deep dive into this subject to raise awareness. 

The Struggles Within the Construction Environment: 

  1. Demanding Work Environment: Construction sites are synonymous with physical and mental challenges. Long hours, strenuous conditions, exposure to hazardous materials, and confronting dangerous situations are all part of a construction worker’s daily reality. 
  1. Job Insecurity: A significant portion of construction workers operates on a self-employed or contractual basis, introducing an element of job insecurity. The constant ebb and flow of contracts can lead to financial uncertainties, adding an extra layer of stress. 
  1. Lack of Mental Health Support: Unlike some industries, mental health support in construction is often inadequate. Stigma, a lack of awareness among employers, and the isolated nature of many construction sites contribute to a dearth of accessible mental health resources. 

Common Mental Health Experiences: 

Construction workers frequently grapple with mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The repercussions extend beyond personal struggles, affecting productivity, increasing absenteeism, and elevating the risk of accidents and injuries on construction sites. The cost to the UK construction industry, estimated at £7.5 billion annually, underscores the urgency of addressing mental health challenges. 

Building a Healthier Construction Industry: 

  1. Raising Awareness: Employers must be attuned to the mental health challenges faced by construction workers. Understanding the impact of these issues on both individuals and businesses is the first step towards fostering a supportive environment. 
  1. Providing Mental Health Support: Accessible mental health support is paramount. Employers can implement initiatives such as employee assistance programs, mental health first aid training, and counselling services to ensure that workers have the resources they need. 
  1. Creating a Supportive Work Environment: Cultivating a workplace culture that encourages open conversations about mental health is vital. By promoting understanding and providing resources, employers can create an environment where workers feel comfortable addressing their mental health concerns. 

A Safer Tomorrow: 

Taking proactive steps to improve mental health in the construction industry is not just a moral imperative but a strategic investment. By prioritising the well-being of the workforce, we can create a safer, healthier, and more productive construction environment. It’s time for the industry to recognise the challenges, break the stigma, and build a foundation where mental health is a cornerstone of success. Together, we can construct a brighter and more resilient future for everyone involved in the construction journey. 

About the Author

Sean is the business development lead at Shoal and writes about his experiences and aims for the future of health and safety.