Sam Cooke

East Midlands Home Builder aiming to make a difference to employee mental health

The construction industry is facing a silent crisis in the form of poor mental health, particularly among male workers, who are three times more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts in other industries.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 15 to 21 May 2023, with a theme of ‘anxiety’ the focus this year.

Stress, anxiety, and depression make up one-fifth of work-related illnesses, and it costs up to £100 billion annually. Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide, than falling from a height at work.

According to Professor Charles Egbu, the President of CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building), the current mental health crisis has been caused by multiple factors often seen in the construction industry. Examples include job instability and pauses in work due to the weather, which can also link to seasonal depression, as well as concerns around delayed payments and wages.

Long working hours, combined with time away from families and a lack of HR support, are all contributing to a decline in mental health amongst construction workers, and are issues that must be addressed by employers, whatever their size.

Land Director and Mental Health Ambassador, Simon Midgley at East Midlands-based, family-run home builder, Fairgrove, has enrolled on the latest 2023 Mental Health First Aid England course. He believes investing in employee mental health support is vital to the health of those workers in the construction industry.

Simon said: “There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to mental health, especially men’s, which is why we are investing in our staff to support their wellbeing.

“We have a great atmosphere at our office and sites across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and our workforce is aware that they are able to speak to our trained Mental Health Ambassadors if they need somebody to turn to.”

Charities such as Lighthouse Club, The Construction Industry Charity, provide charitable support to those who need it most in the construction community by offering their wellbeing academy, five step framework, and building mental health programmes.

In March 2022, Fairgrove signed up to the Home Builders Federation’s Mental Health Awareness Campaign, as well as becoming an official partner of Building Mental Health, an online portal created by industry experts that provides support and advice to increase awareness of mental health across the sector.

Resources available as part of the campaign, for construction workers in need, consist of: Toolbox Talks, online tutorials, helpline packs and mental health first aid training courses.

Vanessa Gregory, Sales and Marketing Manager at Fairgrove undertook the Mental Health First Aid England training course in 2022, and became a qualified Mental Health First Aider, who is on hand to provide support to the team, if they ever feel they need it.

Simon added: “It’s critical, too, that the next generation of workers feel supported and secure. Many young people have been negatively impacted by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, which itself followed on from a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, which resulted in a global mental health disaster for many.

As Sam Cooke, Bricklaying Apprentice explains, it hasn’t been easy. He said: “My time at school was disrupted lots by COVID, with having to study at home and being separated from my friends, it was hard.

“Now, in my working life, it is important to me that I have strong support from my managers. I feel as though I can approach them either through a face-to-face chat, or a conversation over the phone, if I need any help or need to speak to somebody.

"The support we receive here at Fairgrove is excellent. It’s great to see a home builder making a difference in the industry."