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It’s time to tackle the stigma over mental health

Each year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem, and on average one in six workers are dealing with anxiety, depression or stress right now, and yet we just don’t talk about it. This is due in part to the social stigma of having a mental health issue and the fear of potential discrimination. But if we don’t discuss these problems openly, not only will the stigma remain but people will not seek the help they need.

Mental health is clearly an issue in the wider construction industry. A recent survey by Construction News showed that 55% of workers had experienced mental health problems at some point in their lives, and 82% said there is a stigma around mental health in the industry. The fact that our industry is male-dominated compounds the issue; men find it especially difficult to open up about their mental health needs and are less likely to seek support, with the Mental Health Foundation reporting that men are not only less likely than women to have sought medical support for their problem, they are also less likely to tell friends and family when a problem develops.

So how do we tackle the stigma over mental health? Well today, we start by signing the ‘Time to Change’ pledge, a public commitment of our aspiration to end the stigma over mental health in the workplace and ensure that those experiencing mental health difficulties have access to the support they need.

This is backed up by an action plan with meaningful steps to foster a culture change and get people talking about the issues. Our plan includes commitments to:

Raise awareness: We want to create an environment where mental health is no longer a taboo subject. This starts today in our webinar for all UK staff where we will discuss the importance of signing up to the Time to Change campaign, and give practical tips on how to support mental health at work.

Highlight support available to all staff: We plan to better signpost the services and support we have available so staff know where to go if they – or a colleague – experiences a mental health problem. Alongside our employee assistance programme and HR support we will be sharing resources on how to have conversations around mental health and how to support mental wellbeing in teams.

Keep the conversation going: We will continue to participate in wider campaigns such as Stress Awareness Day and Mental Health Awareness Week to spearhead internal discussions on these key issues.

Encourage people to share their stories: Sharing personal experiences is a powerful tool in addressing the stigma around mental health. Last year three of our staff members shared their personal stories around mental health. We will encourage more people to come forward and share their stories to show it’s ok to open up and talk about mental health problems.

Over the last 20 years, our industry has developed a proactive attitude towards physical health issues, with strong health and safety policies to try and keep people safe, or to provide support should accidents occur.

However, the industry needs to do more to tackle the stigma around mental health problems, an issue that damages the happiness, satisfaction and productivity of us all. We have a long way to go, but we’re making a start today, and I urge others in the industry to join us.

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