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October 12, 2018

Why construction firms are prioritizing mental health

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Vince Alm, contracts manager at construction company Jehu, said he was “shocked” to find out one of his labourers had killed himself.

According to latest statistics, the industry where mental ill health is most acute is construction.

This is an issue building firms say they are working hard to address.

Men in the building industry are three times more likely to take their own lives than men on average, according to the ONS figures .

Since their employee’s death, Jehu have put in measures to try to tackle poor mental health, including visits from charities to encourage the workers to talk if they need to.

“We all like to think we’re macho but we all suffer the same problems. There is help out there and things do get better.”

Jehu is not the only construction company in Wales offering support to workers.

The building firm Bouygues is also concerned and has brought in mental health first aiders to lend support and spot people’s troubles early on.

Its corporate social responsibility director, Leigh Hughes, said they needed to make it clear that “it is OK to not be OK”.

He said workers are often on their own for a long time each day, for instance working on a crane, digger or a tractor.

Bouygues community engagement officer Nick Toulson, 49, has worked in construction for eight years – and has suffered with depression since his early teenage years.

“I hope people realise there are a lot of people out there who are struggling at different levels,” he said.

In his early twenties, his father died just after he himself became a father and endured a series of “life stresses”.

“It got really bad, I went through a couple of periods in my life… I describe it as standing on the edge of the abyss.”

He is thankful for his supportive partner and the medical help he received to help him deal with his mental health problems when they arose.

“Bottling your feelings up, bottling your depression and anxiety up, is probably one of the worst things you can do… It’s really important to talk, whether that’s chatting over a cup of coffee with your work colleagues…or getting an appointment with your GP.”

The personal cost of mental health problems can be enormous, but it also has a wider impact on the economy.

Keep reading on BBC News



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