Mates in Mind – What’s it all About?

Mates in Mind – What’s it all About?

29th September 2016

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), work related stress is defined as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them”.  A recent survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) discovered that a massive 84% of construction professionals felt that stress in the construction industry was a factor for poor retention levels.  Moreover, of the 847 participants in the poll, 578 revealed that they have suffered from stress, anxiety or depression, with 154 of these seeking medical advice for their problem.

Historically, the construction sector has not had a culture of open discussion when it comes to mental health issues and how to tackle them.  Mental health is defined by the HSE as “how we think, feel and behave” and the most common mental health problems can be successfully treated by GPs rather than by specialists in mental health.  Work related stress can often trigger or worsen an existing mental health problems and with the construction industry’s pattern of long working hours, often in dangerous environments, this could be a real problem within the sector.

Well now there’s a new industry-wide programme that’s designed to improve and promote positive mental health called Mates in Mind.  The initiative is led by the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) and supported by the British Safety Council and aims to help employers to address the issue of mental health.  With one in four people in the UK experience stress, anxiety or depression Mates in Mind will raise awareness and understanding of poor mental health in the construction industry in a way that’s consistent and accessible by all worker across the sector.

The stated mission of the NCLG group is to “unite the construction industry in order to eradicate the ill health and disease caused by work-related activities, and this includes addressing mental health”.  It’s been suggested that the number of deaths from suicide in the construction industry may be up to ten times higher than those from fatal accidents in the workplace.  This demonstrates that there is a pressing need to address health issues, particularly mental health in the workplace.

In the past the construction industry has come together and worked as a whole in order to address the high number of accidents and this has led to a decrease in incidents, making the industry a safer, better sector in which to work.  It’s now high time that we in the industry address the issue of stress and mental health, a subject that has been considered somewhat taboo in this still male-dominated sector.  While this is changing within the industry, it’s not changing as quickly as it is in other industries.  This will involve employers within the industry taking the lead and encouraging discussion and debate about mental health and the Mates in Mind initiative is a welcome step forward in this quest.