Developing mental health promotion in the construction sector

Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, Doireann Ní Dhálaigh and Clíodhna O’Connor, of the National Suicide Research Foundation at University College Cork in Ireland, look at how positive mental health can be promoted in the construction sector and wider

Mental health in the workplace is now recognised as a significant problem worldwide, owing to its impact on sickness absence, early retirement, and productivity.

The construction sector has been associated with high levels of mental health problems, such as stress, burnout, increased depressive symptoms, and suicide. A survey conducted by Construction News with more than 1,100 UK construction workers found that 55% of respondents had experienced mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and stress, at some point in their lives, and 42% reported having suffered from mental health problems at work. Both figures are more than twice the UK national average.

There is also consistent evidence on high rates of suicide in the construction sector. For example, the UK Office of National Statistics data in 2011-2015 showed that low-skilled male construction workers had 3.7 times greater risk of suicide than the national male average, and for skilled-trades workers the suicide risk doubled.

In general, we know that workplaces that engage in mental health promotion interventions can improve employees’ mental health. However, there is a dearth of research in the construction sector, which is vitally important as construction has specific mental health risk factors unique to this sector.

These risk factors may include the project- and client-driven nature of the building trade, commonly short-term projects along temporary contracts, job, and financial insecurity, and work away from home for longer periods of time.

There is also very limited research on mental health promotion in small to medium-sized construction enterprises.

There are many ongoing research activities in the construction sector at present. One such research project is the EU Horizon funded programme known as MENTUPP – Mental Health Promotion and Intervention in Occupational Settings. The MENTUPP project aims to develop, implement, and test a workplace-based intervention to improve mental health and reduce suicide rates among construction workers, as well as in the healthcare and ICT sectors.

Mental health promotion interventions need to be built on foundations of a strong evidence base involving the construction companies themselves. This research cannot take place without the participation and support of construction companies and workers.

Commitment of management at the worksite is known to be a key driver of participation in successful mental health promotion. This World Suicide Prevention Day, we ask you to consider what you can do for yourself, your construction company, and the construction industry by playing your part in the development of safer workplaces through participation in research. The knowledge generated from research will benefit the entire industry.

To learn more about MENTUPP, please visit www.mentuppproject.eu and to register your interest in getting involved with the research, please email mentupp@eaad.net. This project has received funding from the European Union’s H2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 848137. The material presented and views expressed here are the responsibility of the author(s) only. The EU Commission takes no responsibility for any use made of the information set out.

IOSH has a range of resources to help organisations build a positive culture at work where staff can talk openly about their thoughts and feelings. On the IOSH website, there is Working well, a guide on promoting health and wellbeing at work and the Occupational health management in the workplace guide. There are research reports including Return to work after common mental disorders and MENtal health first aid in The wORkplace (MENTOR). IOSH also has the Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing course which provides practical advice and tools for managers to help create a healthy and productive place of work.

World Suicide Prevention Day is organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and provides the opportunity for people, across the globe, to raise awareness of how to prevent suicide.

An international page is available which informs people of local helplines and crisis centres available to them in their country. Click here to visit it.

Marcus Boocock
PR Lead +44 (0)116 257 3139
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