Under pressure – the facts
- 75% of suicides in the UK are men
- Globally, a man dies every minute due to suicide
- Every working day, two construction workers will take their own lives
- The construction industry has a higher number of suicides than any other sector of the economy
- 98-99% of the plumbing and heating industry is made up of men.
In 2020, The CIPHE and member magazine, P&H Engineering, launched the Under Pressure campaign to address mental health problems in the construction industry.
Sadly, construction has a higher number of suicides than any other sector of the economy. For each working day that passes, an average of two construction workers take their own lives. Workplace stress is normally the defining factor, with the demands of the job, financial worries and isolation among the issues putting strain on workers.
Stress, depression, anxiety and insomnia affect all aspects of life, and no matter how much you try to hide your suffering, the cracks will start to show. In a poll, conducted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and 25 other construction trade bodies, 41% of respondents said that payment issues had strained their relationship with their partner, with 5% reporting it caused it to breakdown entirely.
P&H Engineering magazine has been campaigning with the CIPHE to change the workplace culture and help members experiencing mental health issues.
CIPHE membership director, Tim Sainty, said: “Working in plumbing and heating engineering can be a highly pressured environment. We want to equip our members with the knowledge to minimise the occasions this impacts negatively on their mental health and to provide a route to support on the occasions it does.”
Why is poor mental health so prevalent in the construction industry?
The industry is primarily male. Men’s mental health is in a bad shape and has been declining largely due to the pressures of work and modern life. Experts site a combination of factors that make the feelings of depression, stress, anxiety and insomnia manifest acutely in men, including:
- Societal expectations – the idea that men have to behave in a certain way and fulfil traditional gender roles (breadwinner, strong, successful, in control etc), can negatively impact on men’s mental health. This also makes men less likely to reach out for support with the perceived (and completely untrue) connotations of being weak or a failure.
- Workplaces - some work environments and roles are more pressured than overs. Those in construction are battling a variety of pressures from deadlines, clients, project budgets, paperwork, winning new business, keeping up to date with professional registrations, changing legislation and the tax man to name a few.
- Women are more likely to go to a health professional if they are feeling the effects of ill health - physical and mental.
- Women are also more likely to talk through both physical and mental issues with friends, family and in the workplace with co-workers / HR / their boss. This is (in most cases) the defining factor in getting help.
- Men are generally less aware of health issues and symptoms in the first place. Symptoms such as a poor sleep pattern, loss of appetite or feelings of anxiety are more likely to be brushed under the carpet than addressed.
- Covid-19 has added to the burden. The added financial and mental health issues caused by coronavirus, plus issues accessing medical facilities during the pandemic, has made the melting pot of men’s health worse.
The good news is that it doesn't have to remain this way. By taking constructive steps, we can help to ease the burden of poor mental health.
Mental health matters
The CIPHE has been working with the Lighthouse Club and the Samaritans to help anyone who is going through tough times. The first step in tackling mental health issues is to talk, and so the Under Pressure campaign has been encouraging people to start by asking “are you okay?” and taking the time to listen to the answer.
Kevin Wellman, CIPHE CEO says: “CIPHE members have worked long and hard to achieve the levels of qualification and professionalism that provide such public benefit. It is a loss for all of us if issues surrounding mental health prevent them from being the best that they can be. We have to be prepared to talk about this subject as it is so much more difficult to support people when they do not feel able to speak out. If we can open the way for people to share their problems, we can help them make that first crucial step – and maybe save a life.”
How to help: Talking about mental health and suicidal thoughts
The biggest step forward to preventing more deaths by suicide is to start talking about mental health issues. After all, the first step towards solving a problem is admitting there is one to be solved.
The good news is there are many ways to help a colleague to open up:
- If you notice a co-worker, friend or family member struggling, encourage them to talk about it.
- Offer to lend an ear – and listen without judgement.
- Find a good time and place to talk.
- Use open language. Don’t talk a problem down. Phrases like ‘it doesn’t matter’ may lead someone to think you are trivialising their problems.
- Remind them that they are valued and appreciated.
- Encourage them to take some exercise: endorphins released in exercise can help to reduce depression.
- Arrange to meet again, or plan in an enjoyable activity on a future date that they can focus on.
- Encourage them to seek help from a medical professional.
If you’re a manager and want to improve your approach to mental health support, visit www.buildingmentalhealth.net.
I need help: Mental health links
If you’re feeling low or experiencing a mental health crisis, you are not alone and there’s help on hand. If you don't feel comfortable talking to friends, family or colleagues just yet, there are a number of confidential helplines and expert organisations available. Please reach out for help.
Construction Industry Helpline
Call the Construction Industry Helpline (a confidential line open 24/7) on 0345 605 1956 in the UK or 1800 939 122 in the Republic of Ireland. You can also download the Construction Industry Helpline app from the App Store or Google Play.
The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity
The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity is the only charity that provides emotional, physical and financial wellbeing support to construction workers and their families. Visit www.lighthouseclub.org.
The Samaritans vision is that fewer people die by suicide. Whether you are feeling low, or contemplating taking your own life, please call the Samaritans free, at anytime, from any phone on 116 123. Find mental health advice online at www.samaritans.org.
Under Pressure campaign articles
Read our articles in P&H Engineering:
Or got to the P&H Engineering magazine website and search for Under Pressure.
Construction Industry Helpline
Need help? Call the Construction Industry Helpline (a confidential line open 24/7) on 0345 605 1956 (UK) 1800 939 122 (ROI) or download the app.Construction Industry Helpline
Lighthouse Club charity
Mental health support, advice and training specially created for those in the construction industry.Visit the Lighthouse Club website
If you are feeling lost, low or suicidal you need to talk. Call the Samaritans free anytime, from any phone on 116 123.Visit the Samaritans website