Mental health and wellbeing in the electrical industry
It’s not often you hear about mental health and wellbeing in the electrical industry. In the wider construction sector, where health and safety is focused on physical stresses and potential injury, mental health has long been overlooked. But things are changing.
In general, we are now discussing mental health much more widely than ever before. Many employers across all industries are beginning to recognise the need for support and an awareness that mental health is just as important as physical health.
The construction industry now seems to be catching up. And it’s long overdue, with statistics showing it is one of the worst for the mental wellbeing of its employees. According to the Office for National Statistics, construction workers are more likely to take their own lives than any other profession. Among men who work in the industry, suicide is more than three times the national average.
And a survey conducted in September 2019 on behalf of UK Construction Week revealed that half of construction industry workers have experienced mental health issues at some point in their lives. Nearly six out of ten people surveyed (58%) said their mental health had been affected by problems at work. Other causes were financial reasons (45%), long hours (41%) and the physical strain of their job (41%). Yet under half of them had sought help or discussed it at work. The majority thought their employers could do more to support the mental health of their staff.
Mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of age, job, gender or personality. People who are struggling with their mental health often don’t even recognise the signs themselves for a long time, and often continue working regardless. This puts pressure not just on them and their families, but also on their work colleagues and employers. Ultimately, it can mean they are unable to carry out their job properly.
Causes of poor mental health can range from a particular incident of stress or injury, family changes or troubles, work-related issues, and financial problems that make it difficult to cope with the everyday stresses and strains of work and home life. Signs of poor mental health can include mild anxiety, depression, phobias, and alcohol and drug addiction.
But, because of the stigma of mental health, people can often hide how they are feeling and fail to seek support. This particularly true in male-dominated industries such as electrical contracting and the wider construction sector.
So it’s crucial that employers remove the stigma and get people talking. Organisations need effective leadership and a culture of responsibility to do this. Processes need to be put in place to identify when someone is struggling and to offer appropriate and timely support in a confidential manner. And it’s also vital to develop a workplace culture of discussion and openness about mental health and wellbeing, to ensure that people feel able to say something when they are struggling. All workers need to recognise mental health issues in both themselves and others. Colleagues need to look out for each other and recognise the signs that someone is struggling.
Support from within the construction sector is growing rapidly. The charity Mates in Mind works with the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and more than 300 construction organisations to raise awareness of mental health. The Electrical Industries Charity runs an Employee and Family Support Programme, for anyone working in the electrical industry. It offers free private and confidential telephone counselling sessions, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), training and career development and transition assistance, debt and legal advice, financial grants and assistance and support for carers.
As an employer within the electrical industry, DRF Electrical fully supports the move towards better awareness and action around mental health in the workplace. That’s why we have been liaising with Yorkshire Health and Safety to implement the required changes to our Health and Safety Policy moving forward into 2020.