Why better support is needed for UK construction workers

The construction industry encompasses a vast number of rewarding careers. For example, it has been found that construction-related employment in Great Britain increased by 3.8% in 2017, exceeding its pre-downturn peak of 2007 to reach the highest level on record. Showcasing the rising popularity of construction-based roles, this figure embodies our progress, says Russell Stilwell, Founder of RSE Building Services.

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owever, whilst it’s tremendous to find that an increasing number of passionate workers are joining the construction industry, an alarming mental illness incline has accompanied this development. It has been found, quite shockingly, that mental illness is more prominent among male construction workers than any other group. More specifically, male construction workers are 10 times more likely to suffer from mental ill-health.

As we consider the cause of this worrying development, we uncover several possible culprits. For example, the construction industry is accompanied by an undeniable ‘macho culture’; workers are encouraged to maintain an impenetrable exterior, showing little to no emotion. Mounting pressure, long days and physically demanding roles inevitably incite an influx of mental illness cases.

I have personally battled with mental illness for years; a troubled upbringing, difficulties in school and traumatic experiences during adulthood, including the loss of a friend, the death of my father, financial hurdles and subsequent addictions, left me in The Priory, facing Generalised Anxiety Disorder and severe depression head-on.

It is through seeking professional help, and finally learning to embrace my feelings, that I came to overcome these struggles. Now, I am the Managing Director of a company that turns over £13m annually; I am proof that it’s never too late, and that the stereotypes which fill this industry are incredibly harmful. I thought I’d be respected less if I expressed my emotions, so I left them to build up inside me.

If sufficient consideration isn’t given to the mental health of construction workers, then this will ignite irreparable damage for both business owners and employees alike. Worsening mental health will increase employee turnover, absenteeism, poor performance and ultimately, it’ll facilitate a decline in profits. Your employees keep the cogs of your business turning, as such, they need to be your top priority. By nurturing their mental health, you’re essentially investing in your company’s longevity.

As a construction worker, business owner, father and husband, I’ve come to appreciate the life-changing effects of proactive mental health support. I now work tirelessly to improve our industry, developing ‘Constructionwise’, an initiative tailored to fulfil the needs of workers from across the country. Meanwhile, I back ‘Mates in Mind’, an important programme created to support our mental health. It’s vital that fellow industry professionals join us; doing all that we can to enhance the mental health of our employees, colleagues and friends will make for a more content, successful and nurturing industry’.

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