First conceived in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, World Mental Health Day is an annual opportunity for all people, of all industries and walks of life, to raise awareness of mental health issues and advocate against social stigma. The remit is to create a unifying, global community helping to empower the millions of people suffering with mental health issues around the globe.
At the same time, the construction industry has traditionally been an industry where stress and associated mental health struggles aren’t effectively understood or addressed. It was recently estimated that more than one construction worker a day takes their own life; three times the average UK rate for men - typically due to issues of anxiety, stress and depression rather than the associated on-the-job physical dangers.
James Roberts, HR Director at Aggregate Industries, comments: “The statistics regarding the state of mental health within the wider construction industry are saddening. While the physical risks associated with construction are obvious and well managed, the reality is that the less easily identifiable issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are far more widespread. As such, it is paramount that we begin to move away from the ‘sweep it under the carpet’ mind-set and proactively manage the mental health and wellbeing of employees with the same gravitas as we do physical safety.”
In 2014 Aggregate Industries introduced Healthy You, a programme aimed at establishing a greater connection with employees and helping to educate them on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. As part of the scheme, the company runs mental health awareness campaigns, talks on mindfulness, and employees are sharing their own personal stories regarding mental health.
It also has over 120 trained Mental Health First Aiders distributed throughout its sites; a network of colleagues who are there for employees to offload, and are able to guide them towards professional help where required.
Aggregate Industries employees can also contact a designated Employee Assistance Programme, where anything from workload issues to mental health concerns can be discussed with absolute discretion and impartiality. It has also provided managers across the business with training and information to help them identify the symptoms of depression and stress and help to support employees exhibiting these types of issues by providing support to those affected.
James adds: “From our experience with Healthy You and other initiatives, we have found that when staff are encouraged to talk openly with colleagues, in a workshop for example, they realise just how many people either suffer from issues themselves or know someone who does. This paves the way for removing the stigma associated with openly discussing mental health.
“On this year’s World Mental Health Day, we’d urge all businesses to prioritise mental wellbeing and, even if they don’t have a full strategy in place, at least begin to start the conversation.”