The construction sector has been associated with high levels of mental health problems, such as stress, burnout, increased depressive symptoms, and suicide.
A survey conducted by Construction News interviewing more than 1,000 UK construction workers found that 55% of respondents had experienced mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and stress, at some point in their lives, and 42% reported having suffered from mental health problems at work. Both figures are more than twice the UK national average.
Bewley Homes has continued to address its commitment to mental health awareness with a number of initiatives designed to support colleagues whether they are working in the office, on site in the sales offices or at home.
The company has trained nine mental health first aiders and mental health champions from all areas of the business to support colleagues and contractors.
MHFA Champions are trained to understand common mental health issues, have the knowledge and confidence to advocate for mental health awareness, have the ability to spot signs of mental ill health, and have the skills to support positive wellbeing.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Bewley has organised a number of initiatives to help staff strike up a conversation. These include:
- To encourage walking and talking at lunchtime: Staff will register laps walked around the grounds at its head office and these will be converted into miles to see how many sites staff have visited throughout the week.
- Donation from staff, at head office, to dress down day to raise money for charity. All money to go to mental health charity Lighthouse Club
- Morning coffee or tea served at head office and refreshments will be arranged for site staff to spend time together
- Mental First Aiders will be promoted during this week and will visit sites and head office for a ‘Time to Talk’ session.
- Information on Mental Health, directing staff to the Bewley Gateway and Vitality portals for advice on Mental Health and Wellbeing will be sent out on a daily basis.
Angela Terrett, HR Manager at Bewley commented: “Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event where there is an opportunity to raise awareness. This year the focus is on anxiety which affects everyone in one way or another. As an employer we want to promote good mental health and wellbeing for our employees and their families by providing the best possible support.”
Mental health – the facts are harrowing:
· Every year over 2.4m construction working days are lost through illness or injury
· Every single working day, two construction workers take their own life
· Last year, there were 30 fatalities on UK building sites
· Stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 27% of work-related illness in the industry
This year, Bewley is making a donation to Lighthouse Club, a charity that supports construction workers and their families through tough times.
Current trained Mental Health First Aid Champions at Bewley:
- Matt Jenkins – Health, Safety and Environmental Manager
- Alan Jacobs – Contracts Manager, Construction
- Simon Hoff – Site Manager Bishops Gardens, Wickham
- Katy Wegerif –Sales Executive
- Mark Swanson – Site Manager, Wilton Park Beaconsfield
- Emily Corfield – Development Manager, Land Dept.
- Charlie Hill – Assistant Quantity Surveyor, Commercial Dept.
Mental Health First Aider:
- Gemma Burgess – Customer Relations Manager, Customer Service Dept.
- David Oakey – Sales Executive
Q&A with Bewley’s Mental Health First Aiders and Champions
Why did you volunteer to be a MHFA /Champion?
Emily Corfield: “I believe supporting peoples mental health is the baseline for everything, and maintaining positive mental health can make a huge difference to anyone’s life.”
Katie Wegerif: “I have done two years as a fully trained Samaritan and I’m passionate about supporting others.”
Mark Swanson: “I believe that operatives on site should have the opportunity to talk to somebody if they are struggling.”
Alan Jacobs: “I have had occasions in the past where people have confided in me and shared their problems and ended their conversations saying ‘thank-you, talking to you has really helped’ I just wanted to build on that and help more people who feel they’re struggling.”
What have you learned?
Emily Corfield: “I have learned that mental health issues can vary hugely and are caused by a variety of factors, sometimes in combination. I have also learnt that most people are likely to experience periods of poor mental health at some point in their life and that it’s something that can be supported greatly through communication and open discussion about how people are doing, including when we are feeling great!”
David Oakey: “The training was incredible. It touches on some very weighty subjects so I would suggest a degree of mental preparation before going on the training if at all possible as you take a dive into what various forms of mental illness can look like. There are some brilliant usable tips such as non-judgemental listening and left me feeling prepared to help should a situation occur.”
Gemma Burgess: “That sometimes just a simple chat with someone can make a huge difference to how they are feeling.”
Katie W: “How best to offer support to others and how to listen.”
Alan Jacobs: “We all know everyone is different. However, it was interesting learning how to look out for signs of someone that may be struggling.”
Are Women better than men at opening up and talking about their mental health?
Alan Jacobs: “Yes! But men are getting better than they were.”
Emily Corfield: “Research suggests women are better at talking about their mental health, although this is by no means a blanket statement. It is important to continue to encourage everyone to open up more about mental health but an increased focus in industries such as construction which are still male dominated where mental health issues are common is a fantastic place to start!”
Does construction still have a ‘macho’ image that prevents men from seeking help when they need it?
Mark Swanson: “The older generation most definitely. Younger guys are more open. I’ve only had two operatives, and both just needed someone to vent their frustration to.”
Simon Hoff: “I feel that there has been a varied opinion on this subject. I would say that in my experience that there has been a level of interaction which I am surprised with over the last few years, especially after I have been provided with the skills to approach and be approached by contractors. In the last few months, I have spoken to several contractors on site and I was surprised that they have engaged with me in this way and I have found this to be very enlightening with both male and female contractors alike.”
How positive has your engagement as MHFA been so far?
Katie W: “It’s a positive move to show employees within the company that there are people here who care, who can listen and help support them when needed.”
Mark Swanson: “Only had two operatives approach me so far and it’s gone well.”
Simon Hoff: “At first, I was sceptical that anyone would just talk so openly but after a few weeks I have found this to be quite the opposite. Not only have they approached me and talked about various issues, but they have also thanked me later on and said that this has helped them.”
What key messages would you like to get over to people reading this?
Gemma Burgess: “You’re not alone, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Looking after your mind is just as important as looking after your body.”
Katie W: “Please do not hesitate to contact any of the MHFA champions. We care and are there for you. Whether it’s just an ear to listen, or to help find a resource, support group or charity. It is confidential too so don’t worry about anyone outside the group finding out.”
Alan Jacobs: “Don’t be frightened to talk to someone: ‘A problem Shared is a problem Halved’ It might make you feel better to hear that you’re not the only one who thinking what you’re thinking!”
Emily Corfield: “The mental health champions at Bewley don’t need an ‘appointment’. Just open up a conversation with us, we love to talk to anyone and everyone and are here to ensure everyone knows they are never alone in what they are dealing with, big or small. There is no obligation to disclose anything to any of us and we won’t pry, but we are armed with loads of fantastic resources which we can signpost people towards from finance advice, bereavement support, to free counselling for Bewley employees and their partners.”
Why is Mental Health Awareness Week so important?
David Oakey: “There are only a few issues in the zeitgeist which genuinely effects every single one of us, and one of those issues is our mental health. It touches all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional and to be educated on how to manage not only your own mental health but help other people with theirs is probably one of the smartest things that we can do at this time.”
Katie W: “Everyone needs support at some stage of their life. Mental health is just as important as your physical health. We are all able to be there for others so the MHAW will draw attention to that.”
Alan Jacobs: “Sadly, I’ve lost loved ones to mental health issues. If I can save just one family from losing a loved one, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Matt Jenkins: “Firstly employers have a legal duty to protect workers from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.
“The HSE’s statistics for 2022 state that 51% of work-related ill-heath are linked to new or long-standing cases of stress, depression or anxiety. This included 372,000 workers suffering new cases of work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2021/22 alone. It is suggested that suicides within construction are almost four times that of the national industry average.”
Simon Hoff: “It’s the 21st century and I believe in change. I have also had mental issues in my past and I have learned not to bottle things up. It’s always good to get an outsider’s perspective. I feel that the older generation are understanding that it’s not ok to be upset and it good to talk.”