According to the Office of National Statistics (2017), suicide rates among construction workers is 3.7 times the national average. And, as an official supporter of Mates in Mind, we’re already working hard to provide the Smith Brothers family with the support, skills, clarity and confidence to raise awareness, improve understanding and address the stigma that surrounds mental health.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, our SHEQ manager Darrell Johnson, has been looking at some of the ways you can show you CARE – using our handy acronym (Confidentiality, Access, Responsibility and Empathy).
Managers and colleagues should treat all matters relating to individuals and their respective mental health in the strictest confidence. A supervisor or line manager does not need to know of any diagnosis – or other personal information – unless the member of staff is willing to disclose this or there is a concern over the health and safety of the person and/or others.
If adjustments are being made, any manager should first discuss with the employee how these will be communicated to colleagues.
**2. Access to confidential, professional support services**
Smith Brothers employees have access to a PAYCARE helpline, where staff can seek information, advice, and support in the event of any situation that poses a threat to their wellbeing. Such circumstances may include bereavement, a relationship breakdown, debt concerns, legal worries, and addiction.
It’s a completely free service which is available 24/7, with additional access to professionals from organisations such as Mind, Construction Industry Helpline and Samaritans also provided.
**3. Responsibilities of managers**
It’s important that senior members of the team ensure any individuals who may be suffering or recovering from mental health issues are treated fairly, sympathetically, and consistently – whatever the background.
All staff concerns must be listened to, investigated, and addressed – particularly if work or other organisational factors may be contributing to individuals’ stress levels or other mental health issues.
It’s also important to be willing to make appropriate adjustments for colleagues, in order to allow them to attend counselling sessions, as well as to encourage them to engage with occupational health, their own GP, or organisations such as Mates in Mind, when necessary.
No matter the situation, speaking about a mental illness is just as important as addressing a physical ailment. Therefore regular, one-to-one meetings between line managers and staff are central to monitoring and identifying any elements of the work which may be contributing to stress.
**4. Empathy of mental health issues**
Unfortunately, the sector in which we work hasn’t always fostered an environment which encourages frank conversations about emotions or feelings. But, as mental health discussions continue to happen internally, it’s easier to spot when something may need addressing.
For instance, a pattern of uncharacteristic behaviour that continues for some time may indicate an underlying mental health problem. Therefore, managers and colleagues need to be sensitive towards a colleague who may exhibit changes in their personality – but perhaps doesn’t realise it themselves.
**Some key indicators to look out for can include:**
• Absenteeism • Significant changes in mood • Unusual deterioration in standard of work • Poor morale or lack of co-operation • Uncharacteristic mistakes • Frequent complaints of tiredness, aches, and pains • Alcohol or drug misuse
When we think of ‘health and safety’, we shouldn’t automatically default to high-vis and hard hats. It’s vital that firms go beyond physical health and encompass psychological fitness too. By speaking openly about mental health in a shared forum, organisations can slowly break down any stigma that still surrounds the notion of discussing thoughts and feelings out loud.
Smith Brothers is committed to providing a positive working environment and appropriate support for our colleagues, in order to have a positive effect on our staff’s emotional wellbeing. We host regular ‘toolbox talks’ – which cover timely elements of SHEQ – have produced a mental health policy, and invested in an organisational wellbeing assessment, dedicated awareness course, free professional support services for the team, as well as provide ongoing upskilling and training of mental health first aiders.