Mates in Mind – An Introduction
Men under the age of 50 are more likely to die from suicide than any other cause, including cancer, road accidents and heart disease. For men working in construction, this risk is 3.7 times higher than the national male average.
In March this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published data based on deaths registered in England between 2011 and 2015. According to the research, males working in the lowest-skilled occupations have a 44% higher risk of suicide than the male national average, while the risk among males in skilled trades is 35% higher. However, the risk of suicide among low-skilled male labourers, particularly those working in construction roles, is 3.7 times higher than the male national average. The UK construction sector contributes £90 billion to the UK economy (6.7% of the total) and is a major employer; accounting for around 7% of the UK workforce (2.9 million workers). ONS figures are alarming and the problem is unquestionably too big for us to ignore.
Historically, the construction industry has been a challenging workplace, with relatively high levels of death and injury. Over the course of the last two decades, significant progress has been made to reduce this toll. Much of the effort over these years has focused on improving physical safety. Meanwhile, mental health and wellbeing has mostly been a secondary consideration.
Despite advances in awareness, mental health conditions and suicide prevention are still taboo topics of conversation in construction. There are many suicide high-risk factors prevalent in this male dominated industry.
“Macho” culture creates barriers to seeking help and acknowledging emotional problems.
Physically challenging work makes employees prone to injuries and fatigue, which can cause chronic pain and lead to physical strain, distress, and pain medication addiction. There is also potential for post-traumatic stress from psychological injury caused by witnessing traumatic life-threatening events.
In addition, the cyclical nature of work, regular lay-off periods, seasonal furloughs, and uncertainty of rehiring add to the list of risk factors. Some employees frequently travel from project to project across the UK, leading to separation from their families and significant others.
Sleep disruption from working long hours for weeks at a time, especially during critical project phases, is another important risk factor.
And, since alcohol and substance abuse in construction is relatively high compared to other occupational industries, these should also be noted indicators.
Earlier this year, research organisation RAND surveyed 5,000 members of the construction workforce. Christian Van Stolk, RAND Europe, said:
“It is well documented that the construction industry has many characteristics that could affect the mental health of its workforce. This year, through RAND Europe’s work with Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace and working with Mates in Mind, we have found that there is high variance in the survey results between construction organisations. This is especially noticeable in areas such as financial concerns, work-related stress and unrealistic time pressures where in some organisations there were much higher risks reported compared to the average. This suggests that in designing mental health approaches across the sector, there is an opportunity to acknowledge differing cultures and sub-sectors, learn from each other and to work to reduce variance.”
go site WHAT IS MATES IN MIND?
In January 2016, the pan-industry Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) hosted a summit for CEOs and leaders from across the construction sector who recognised the need to improve the mental wellbeing of its workforce. As a result, the idea for Mates in Mind was formulated to be the industry’s first step in tackling the health versus safety disparity.
Mates in Mind, a registered charity, was launched in January 2016. Initially, six Partner Organisations – Balfour Beatty, Careys, Heathrow, Tideway, WillmottDixon and VolkerWessels UK – piloted the Mates in Mind framework.
Since then, organisations including Galliford Try, Sellafield and Tarmac, have committed to being a Business Champion for mental health and wellbeing with Mates in Mind.
A full roll out of the Mates in Mind initiative took place on 11 September 2017 to the entire construction industry. Over 350 other companies – of various size and drawn from across the entire sector – have expressed serious interest in committing to the Mates in Mind framework.
Mates in Mind has an ambitious goal – a target of reaching 100,000 workers by September 2018. The charity has set itself the deadline of 2025 to reach 75% of the entire construction industry.
cheap trick lyrics Clive Johnson, Chair of the Health in Construction Leadership Group and Head of Health and Safety at Landsec, said:
“Mates in Mind aims to raise awareness, address the stigma of poor mental health and improve positive mental wellbeing in the UK construction industry. For too many years the industry has been shouting about safety but only whispering about health, when they need equal billing. I am extremely proud that Landsec and the HCLG are at the forefront of ensuring mental health provision within construction is dramatically improved. Following a very successful trial period, Mates in Mind has now been officially launched and I would encourage people who are keen to find out more to visit the Mates in Mind website.
“Training Mental Health First Aiders is something that we are really passionate about at Landsec – we believe they are just as important as physical first aiders. We have had a fantastic number of people volunteer for the two day course, which, once completed, enables participants to sign-post colleagues to the right services and agencies for help and advice, if they need support. I’d like the network of Mental Health First Aiders to increase to one in ten of our people. That may sound like a lot, but it’s a crucial step in tackling this issue. It’s easy to spot someone coming into the office on crutches and arrange some help, but it takes more awareness to pick up on the often-subtle signs of declining mental health.”
Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, British Safety Council said:
“The British Safety Council’s vision is that no-one should be injured or made ill at work. As we have come to recognise, there is no health without mental health. The construction industry’s championing of Mates in Mind sends a strong message about the role workplaces can play in supporting workers’ mental wellbeing and helps to demonstrate their commitment to leading the way in managing this important issue, both to their staff and society more broadly. I am delighted that the British Safety Council is able to play its part in helping the industry to drive this forward.”
In addition, Katrina heard from the Executive Director of Mates in Mind, as well as Pilot Phase Partner Organisation and Business Champion – Tideway.
Joscelyne Shaw, Executive Director of Mates in Mind said:
“Mates in Mind is seeking to support construction companies in raising awareness, addressing the stigma and improving positive mental wellbeing across their sector. Many of the themes affecting construction workers’ wellbeing are similar – many cannot be addressed with quick fixes, but most can be made easier through recognition and support with achievable and realistic changes to the ways in which businesses work.
“Since beginning our roll out to the industry after the pilot phase earlier this year, the level of interest we have received from many construction organisations is very encouraging. By working together, which is offered through our flexible and joined-up approach, we believe we will be able to make a significant difference to the industry; the people working in it as well as those touched by it.”
Steve Hails, Chair of Mates in Mind Board and Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing at Tideway, said:
“The recent ONS report indicates that the construction industry has a suicide rate 3.7 times higher than any other industry in Great Britain. The extent of the instances of mental ill health is exacerbated by the contributing factors for those working in construction. Workers then generally follow the work and then spend prolonged periods separated from the family causing potential relationship difficulties. Long shift patterns, poor accommodation (particularly when working in London due to rental costs), longer commutes (to counter the large costs of living in central London) and poor diets all contribute to increased fatigue. Not all construction projects are like Tideway and insist upon the London Living Wage, so financial worries married with uncertainty over future prospects can add to the growing list of contributing factors.
“That’s why Tideway, as a client member of the Health in Construction Leadership Group, was keen to address the issue of mental ill health and welcomed the creation of the Mates in Mind charity, of which I am Chair of the Board of Trustees. Whilst some organisations have already started on their journey, the vast majority have not. Mates in Mind offers a structured approach, recognised by HCLG, to provide education, training and support for employees and employers. Tideway were one of five supporting organisations involved in the early pilot phase to help shape the programme. We are delighted to see the charity now in full roll out and are keen to reach the aspirations of 100,000 persons in year one and 75% of the industry by 2025.
“My personal hope is that mental health and addressing ill health becomes business as usual and the stigma that is associated with ill health becomes a thing of the past.”
HOW IT WORKS
As an organisation, Mates in Mind believes that there is no health without mental health.
Mates in Mind aims to:
- Raise awareness and understanding of mental health and mental ill health.
- Help people understand how, when and where to get support.
- Break the silence and stigma through promoting cultures of positive wellbeing throughout the industry.
Mates in Mind features a tiered training framework with four key elements which together, build understanding, knowledge and confidence amongst workers; thus offering a holistic and joined up approach.
Guidance & Support
To support your organisation in creating the right programme – offering guidance on specific worker issues to creating a stress management policy through to connecting the workforce to appropriate support at the right time.
Awareness & Education
To educate and inform your workforce – with messages tailored to the workforce, to leaders and to ‘champions’ – helping everyone understand their roles and responsibilities in terms of mental wellbeing.
To visibly support the framework throughout your organisation – including relevant and accessible communication materials – from hard hat stickers to van stickers, posters, flyers and wallet cards etc.
Research & Development
To help build an evidence base – Mates in Mind are developing a research programme that will help the industry understand the nature and impact of mental health, and ensure development of effective and robust solutions.
Mates in Mind has been designed to be flexible, joined up and easily used to suit the needs of individual organisations and their business priorities.
The construction sector has a track record of taking what appear to be hard-to-crack issues, working in partnership to find pan-industry solutions to remedy them. Mates in Mind works with leading organisations and charities such as Mind, Samaritans, Mental Health First Aid England, British Safety Council, Lighthouse Club, Remploy and the National Counselling Society.
Mates in Mind provides an innovative and collaborative approach that helps construction companies nurture positive mental wellbeing amongst their workforce. Key to its success is breaking the silence and stigma that can surround mental health, in a wider society and especially in the construction industry.
For more information on Mates in Mind, go to www.matesinmind.org
To view this feature in the digital edition of HSE International Magazine, click here.
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