We Need to Talk about Mental Health in the Construction Industry

The construction industry employs more than 625,000 people across Australia, making it one of the biggest employers in the country and the statistics surrounding suicide in this industry are quite confronting.

Mental Health in the Construction Industry

According to recent reports from MATES in Construction and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC):

  • Construction workers are more than twice as likely to suicide as other people in Australia
  • Construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than through a workplace accident
  • Apprentices in construction are two and a half times more likely to suicide than other young men their age
  • 21% of workers in the construction industry were shown to have had a mental health condition
  • 9% of construction workers have a condition affecting their mood, such as depression

An evidence review focusing on male-dominated industries commissioned by beyond blue also indicates workers in the construction industry may have elevated prevalence rates of depression and anxiety.

With these facts in mind it becomes increasingly important for employers to understand and support their employees and to consider that the people they employ are likely to have experienced mental illness at some point.

Mental Ill Health is Costing Australian Businesses

The recent PwC report estimated that Australian businesses were losing $10.9 billion annually for neglecting to address mental health in the workplace.

However, businesses that take action will, on average, experience a return of $2.30 for every $1 invested in initiatives that foster better mental health in the workplace. In the construction industry, the return is even higher – and average of $2.50 for every $1 invested.

Speaking openly reduces stigma and encourages people to seek help. We have identified 6 pillars of support that create a framework within which these issues of mental health in the workplace can be addressed.

The 6 Pillars of Support

  • Reducing Stigma – Talking about mental ill health with someone who has lived through it is one of the best ways to address and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. Organisations that specialise in mentally healthy workplace training will often be able to provide peer workers to work with staff. Peer workers are people who have lived with mental ill health who will talk about their experience as well as describing evidence based statistics that normalise the condition.
  • Increasing Awareness – Discussion on areas such as work health and safety, discrimination, privacy and self-care in relation to the person’s role is crucial in fostering openness within the workplace. Helping people to be comfortable talking about mental health should be a priority for an organisation. Including this awareness in staff induction is a great way to start this process.
  • Making a Commitment –-Develop and share a collaborative Action Plan that aims to improve the mental wellbeing of staff. Include progress points and a focus on the specific benefits for your employees, business and the community. This type of Action Plan should be part of a commitment that ensures everyone in an organisation is part of creating a mentally healthy workplace.
  • Supporting Employees – 1 in 4 people have experienced depression or anxiety, which means that you more than likely work alongside people living with mental ill health. It is crucial that employees with mental health conditions have the support they need to stay at or return to work. Employers can do this by accessing Workplace Rehabilitation services through an accredited provider in their local area.
  • Building Skills and Confidence –Provide tools and resources for workers to check in with themselves and manage their own wellbeing. Employees and managers should also have the confidence to approach someone they may be concerned about, and have access to the right training and resources to manage these conversations.  https://www.ruok.org.au/
  • Education on Workplace Bullying – Organisations need to provide examples of workplace bullying and evidence based statistics on consequences.  Senior employees should be educated in how to mentor more vulnerable workers such as apprentices or new staff.

The Case for having a Mentally Healthy Workplace

Businesses that actively promote good mental health attract and retain top talent and are great places to work. By supporting people with mental health conditions and encouraging openness, employers create diverse and all-encompassing workplaces.

Together we can build informed and inclusive workplaces that understand and openly address the subject of mental illness.

CHESS Connect have over 20 years of experience in providing mental health and wellbeing support healthy, productive workplaces. Our support framework is based on working collaboratively with the employer and workers, understanding your workplace and identifying simple, concrete actions to promote a mentally healthy workplace.

We have a number of workplace centric wellbeing services including:

  • Business Resilience Project
  • Mentally Healthy Workplace Workshops
  • Trauma Informed Customer Service Training
  • Workforce Regeneration and Redeployment

Check out our Employer Services for more information or contact us directly on the form below to speak to a workplace wellbeing specialist.

Did you know? If you operate a business in a bushfire effected region on the Mid North Coast or Northern Rivers of NSW, you could be eligible for free trauma informed workplace workshops through our Business Resilience Project. Contact us to determine eligibility for your business.

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