Building effective support for mental wellbeing on construction sites


Risk of suicide among site-based workers is three times the national average. Orbit Homes tells us about their partnership with Mates in Mind to provide support for mental wellbeing on construction sites

It is a well-known fact that the pandemic has had a major impact on the mental health of millions of employees. But for people working in construction, the stresses of the last few months are being felt particularly acutely.

A Chartered Institute of Building report published in May 2020 found that 26% of construction workers had experienced suicidal thoughts and a further 97% had experienced stress over the past year. The risk of suicide among some site-based workers is also three times the national average according to the ONS.

The pressure of working to a tight construction programme with deadlines to meet has intensified in recent months with the logistics of working within Government restrictions and disruptions to supply chains, making working conditions even more challenging.

‘Man up and get on with it’

Whilst more people are talking more openly about their mental health and wellbeing, we know that there are still lots of people suffering in silence. Encouraging people to open up about their mental health remains a particular issue in construction, where historically a ‘man up and get on with it’ culture has prevailed.

That’s why Orbit Homes is taking the issue seriously, recently announcing its support for mental health charity, Mates in Mind, which provides a framework for the organisation to raise awareness and address the stigma of poor mental health on its sites.

The charity provides clear information to UK employers, especially within the construction industry, on available support and guidance on mental health, as well as how they can address and improve this across their organisations.

In addition to becoming a Mates in Mind supporter, Orbit Homes is also working with The Black Country Blokes, a men’s mental health podcast which discusses all issues related to being a man, in today’s society.

Talk openly about mental health

Ray Winney, construction director for Orbit Homes East, commented: “Having personally lost a close friend to suicide, I am all too aware of how crucial it is that we do all we can to get people talking more openly about their mental health.

“Whilst the last few months have obviously presented its constraints in terms of getting out and about to support people face-to-face, we’re committed to doing everything we can to support everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Via our partnerships with Mates in Mind and The Black Country Blokes we’ve been able to raise awareness of the issue in a relatable way through podcasts and visits to a couple of our sites by guys who have personal experience of issues themselves.

“Now that restrictions are lifting, I’m really keen to develop our buddy system so that people have a direct point of contact on site for some support when they need it.”

“There’s no avoiding the fact that the industry we work in generates pressure and stress,” added Jon Love, Construction Director for Orbit Homes South.

“Every day on site we are faced with meeting deadlines in the context of ongoing restrictions, supply issues and in some cases a high turnover of employees.

‘Not suffer alone in silence’

“However, despite that we have started making inroads into the stigma surrounding mental health and creating a working environment in which people can feel comfortable to talk about their wellbeing, seek the help they need if they are struggling and not suffer alone in silence.

“As well as the support available to colleagues via our partnerships with Mates in Mind and The Black Country Blokes, our Healthy Mind First Aiders (HMFAs) have all received Mental Health First Aider training and meet once a month to share ideas and to support each other. The HMFAs support with raising awareness across all areas of wellbeing and provide a non-judgemental listening ear to anyone who needs them.”

Winney concluded: “Orbit’s mental health awareness and culture has seen an increased in people sharing their struggles recently. These are guys that five years ago probably would have kept their struggles to themselves, so I am encouraged that things are changing and that the steps we’re taking to encourage people to seek help when they need it are starting to work, making it easier for people to come forward and say ‘I’m not ok’. This is a really crucial first step for people to get the support they need and for us to create a working environment where people can thrive and be their best.”


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