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Fix Radio: Mental health crisis in construction claims the lives of two colleagues every working day

FIX Radio says it provides a guide to resources available to tradespeople to help with mental health. Clive Holland, broadcaster on Fix Radio, has spoken about the key steps in building a supportive work culture onsite for better mental health.

‘The construction industry has long been vulnerable to mental health issues owing to the stifling crises, strenuous hours, and job insecurity. With us recently having marked Men’s Mental Health Month, it’s time to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health in the construction industry and understand the dire need to improve support readily available to tradespeople.

‘The Association for Project Safety revealed that just under half of men with mental health were able to talk about their problems, posing a major issue in an industry that employs almost 3m people. Tragically, data from the department of health and social care declared that suicide is the main cause of death in men under 50, and now construction charity, Lighthouse, is experiencing a surge in tradespeople using their services with 400 calls a month coming from families from the construction industry.

‘The need to improve the support available to employees and business owners in the industry is further highlighted in new research from Fix Radio, which shows that a shocking 38% of tradesmen are now experiencing the worst levels of stress and anxiety in their lifetime.’

Adding to this, says Clive, research from Ironmongery Direct shows 64% of tradespeople experience work-related stress at least once a month, with the report showing a high workload, tensions with customers and finances are the top three causes of stress for tradespeople.

But despite its widespread effect, being a predominantly male-dominated sphere, 69% of tradespeople said there’s still a stigma within the sector surrounding seeking help for mental health problems – according to industry research.

In search of support, the demand for national helplines highlights the growing desperation among industry professionals. The Big Brew, a national helpline, revealed that more than a third of texts were from individual construction workers contemplating suicide, with 16% of those related to depression. Highlighting the urgency of this crisis, the helpline further unveiled that 80% of their usage occurs during the working week.

This comes at a challenging time, where overwhelming work schedules, material shortages and new environmental directives, has left hundreds of thousands of small businesses – equalling 27% of SMEs in the trade – on the verge of breaking point, Fix Radio’s study found.

Where can tradespeople go for help?
The Lighthouse Club is focused on improving the welfare and wellbeing of the construction community in the UK and Ireland. It provides a range of free and pro-active services to help companies deliver the best possible support to their employees and their families.

24/7 Confidential Helpline: Available to everyone on your site including subcontractors, agency workers and allied trades. Its construction industry helpline covers all aspects of emotional, physical and financial wellbeing and is available in many different languages through our partnership with translation services.

Self-support app: Downloadable wellbeing support app called ‘construction industry helpline’ that covers all the aspects of wellbeing. The app is packed with information to learn about conditions, how to develop coping strategies with signposting to more than 3,000 accredited organisations that provide support. It really is a ‘mate’ in your back pocket.

Text HardHat: 24/7 service that gives immediate access to text back counselling.

Masterclasses Wellbeing: These are one-hour scheduled CPD-accredited wellbeing education sessions covering topics such as managing stress, building resilience, work-life balance, mindfulness, meditation, financial management and many more.

Lighthouse beacons: They’ve identified more than 160 volunteer centres around the UK and Ireland where workers can drop in to meet likeminded people, socialise and talk. The Beacons is facilitated by individuals with lived experience and in this confidential environment, encourage those struggling with life problems to share their issues and if required, seek further help.

In addition, Clive Holland, host of The Clive Holland Show, has shared his thoughts on how the mental health crisis is impacting the trades sector:
‘There are several underlying reasons the rate of suicide in the construction trades is so high. First, there is a macho image in the industry and men aren’t brilliant at ‘opening up’ and discussing their feelings. But I feel that’s changing slowly, but surely.

‘Second, there’s a lot of stress involved in running a small business – there are long hours, few holidays, slow payers and cash flow issues. In the past two years particularly, spiralling costs of materials and spiking energy prices have squeezed margins even further. Couple that with the growing skills shortage – it ramps up extra pressures on daily site life. The pandemic has magnified many of these problems – tradespeople will tell you they’ve never been this busy. Many are fully booked until the end of the year, if not further.

‘It’s also worth remembering that while many of our tradespeople have fantastic skills and deliver outstanding work, the weakest part of their game is dealing with the details of their business. Great tradespeople aren’t necessarily great businesspeople and it is worth remembering that they often feel intimidated by the admin and financial side of the business.’

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