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Long hours, drugs and alcohol: survey reveals state of mental ill health in construction

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Mental health awareness has grown in the construction sector, but stigma is still putting people off seeking support, according to a new survey.


The Mind Matters survey run by Construction News polled 1,580 construction workers. It found that seven out of 10 respondents (72.5 per cent) believed mental health awareness had improved in the past 12 months – a significant leap up on the 33.7 per cent recorded in last year’s survey.

A third of respondents (32.6 per cent) agreed that they felt comfortable talking about the issue with colleagues and line managers. But despite greater levels of awareness, almost 90 per cent of respondents did not feel there was enough support for those struggling with mental health issues.

Further, the majority of workers who took time off due to stress did not feel comfortable talking to their employer about the reason. In fact, only 28 per cent told their employer why.

"Mental health is a sensitive subject, and we have a fear of saying and doing the wrong things": Martin Coyd, head of health and safety at Mace

Mace head of health and safety Martin Coyd told CN that there is a still stigma and more work needs to be done. “Over the past three years we have really embraced the mental health initiative,” he said.

“Although people in the industry now feel like they have permission to talk about mental health, it remains a very sensitive subject, and we have a fear of saying and doing the wrong things.”

Working long hours was the biggest factor behind poor mental health in the answers respondents gave (three out of four, or 74.2 per cent).

Yet, according to one anonymous contributor, a tendering manager at a tier one contractor, nothing has been done to tackle the issue: “If you’re working long, inflexible hours and you’re already struggling with your mental health, it’s only going to make things worse,” he told CN.

“We all want flexible working hours, but the mental health campaigns that seem to be the latest fashion just kind of offer everyone a cup of tea and that’s it, there’s no follow through.”

Job uncertainty (70.8 per cent), tight deadlines (68.7 per cent), financial pressure (67.5 per cent) and working away from home (64.1 per cent) were all other factors named that fuelled mental ill health.

About 40 per cent said alcohol was a contributing factor, and just under 40 per cent said they struggled due to drugs.

CN’s Mind Matters survey here

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