Mental health within the construction industry | Mates in Mind

Mental health within the construction industry | Mates in Mind

Mates in Mind is challenging the construction industry to start the conversation about mental health

Last year, early findings from our major study into the mental health of self-employed construction workers and those working in small firms showed worrying results. Over 300 respondents suggested that almost a third are now living with severe levels of anxiety every single day.

Construction workers from a range of trades told researchers from Mates in Mind and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) that the continuing stigma of mental illness prevents them from discussing it beyond close friends or family members. Over two-thirds of those surveyed believe there’s a stigma surrounding mental health which stops them from talking about it and 44 per cent believe their workload is too high.

When asked how they had responded to low mood over the past six months, over 40% of respondents considered quitting or changing their job, 35% found themselves drinking more alcohol than usual and over 15% were taking any non-prescription drugs.

In the UK, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. And in construction – a male dominated industry – men are three times more likely again to take their own lives. According to the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), two people working in the UK construction industry die by suicide every day, over 700 people a year.

Until people feel comfortable to talk about the fact that they are suffering from stress or need help, it is difficult to identify problems and take steps to make changes. Currently we know that people are often reluctant to open up for fear of appearing ‘weak’ or damaging their career prospects.

We all need to be proactive at starting the conversation with someone who could be struggling. For an individual, knowing that someone is there ready to support and cares about their wellbeing can be a massive help to their mental health.

Here are some basic tips for how to start the conversation with someone who may be struggling:

Ask Twice

‘How are you?’ can often lead to a standard response of “I’m fine” or “I’m okay”. The simple act of asking again, with interest, shows a genuine willingness to talk and listen to the person. If you’re worried about someone, the next time they say they’re fine, try asking ‘How are you really?’ or ‘Are you sure you’re ok?’. This may encourage them to open up to you about how they are feeling. It is vital that we get the conversation started.

Keep it informal

You don’t have to set aside hours to have a talk with someone, 10 minutes may be enough, but just make sure there are no distractions. Perhaps turning off your phone and minimising other distractions will help you focus on the person and what they might need. Talking when doing something else such as going for a walk during a break or whilst having a coffee can also take some of the initial pressure off – it doesn’t need to be a formal sit-down conversation.

Be Supportive

Make it clear that you’re there to listen and support them, without judgement. Talk about mental health in the same way you would physical health. This normalises mental and emotional difficulties, making it easier for people to talk about them.

Use Open Questions

The best types of questions are open-ended because the person can answer however they feel most comfortable. Such as “What kind of thoughts are you having?” or “How can I help?”


Take time to listen to what they have to say – let them do most of the talking. If they don’t want to talk, don’t push them. Respect their boundaries and try again another time.

You don’t need to have the solution

After they finish talking, don’t jump to conclusions or tell them what they should do. Resist the urge to offer quick fixes which can often lead to people to feeling dismissed. Sometimes people aren’t seeking advice, but instead, just want someone to listen to their concerns.

Follow Up

Show that you care by following up later on, even if they don’t want to continue the conversation at that exact moment.

Look after yourself too

Choosing to talk can make a positive difference to someone’s life but it can also be very difficult. Make sure you look after your own personal wellbeing and mental health or seek support if you need it.

Connect them to information and support

Encourage them to seek professional help if they feel like they can’t cope or if the problem is impacting their daily life. Help them find mental health services in their area, such as counsellors or support groups. You could even offer to go with them to their first appointment or help connect them with someone who can support them through the process.

For further information on Mates in Mind, click here 

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