More than a quarter of construction industry workers thought about taking their own lives last year, shocking new figures reveal.
Twenty six per cent of employees in the sector considered suicide – even before the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the industry – and 97% said they were stressed at least once in 2019.
The figures, from a poll by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), found that job insecurity, long hours, time away from families, lack of support from HR and late payments all contributed to what amounts to a “silent crisis”.
26% of construction workers considered suicide in 2019 and 97% were ‘stressed’ at least once during the year
Source: Chartered Institute of Building
CIOB President Professor Charles Egbu said “We know that the coronavirus outbreak is affecting the way many of us live, work, and play, and in recent days it has become extremely difficult for individuals who are doing their best in extreme circumstances.
“Tackling mental ill-health is going to remain a significant challenge for the industry over the next few years, and we must work as a collective – involving industry, government, and professional bodies to make more fundamental changes and improvements to mental health provision.”
The figures are included in a CIOB report, Understanding Mental Health in the Built Environment, which also highlights the role gender differences play in mental health the industry.
Female construction workers often have to work with poor or no toilet facilities and inadequate sanitary conditions, while men frequently feel unable to discuss their mental wellbeing due to ‘hyper-masculine’ expectations of how they should behave.
Well over half (56%) of construction professionals work for organisations with no policies on mental health in the workplace.
The report contains wide-ranging recommendations to tackle this crisis, calling on construction firms to do more to identify risks, improve awareness through training and events for staff, encourage more open discussion of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and provide specialist support services.
It also says that larger firms should also consider how they can support other businesses in their supply chain.
The CIOB has made a number of recommendations for government, including reviewing the Construction Skills Certification Scheme to include mental health support, updating the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 to ensure workplaces make provisions for mental first aid, and implementing the recommendations of the government’s own Thriving at Work report from 2017, which looked at mental health in the workplace.
The report also calls on professional bodies to do more to develop mental health and wellbeing awareness among members, to develop globally-applicable mental health resources that will increase understanding and reduce stigma within construction, and to provide guidance that will allow professionals to manage their own mental health within the workplace.
Professor Egbu said: “The entire construction industry needs to continuously work on the structure and environment that negatively impact workers’ mental health – no one person can solve this on their own.
“Over 30% of all construction sites have no hot water, and no toiletry facilities for workers All these things have an impact on the mental health and wellbeing. For organisations to take this up, they need to be in a position where the financial environment is conducive for them to do that, and hence, we need support from government to help us in this regard.”