A national builders’ charity has expanded its counselling service after figures indicated the suicide rate among UK construction workers has increased for the fifth year in a row
Research from Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) Centre – in conjunction with the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity – found the suicide rate for construction occupations in 2021 rose to 33.82 per 100,000. This has risen steadily from 25.52 per 100,000 in 2015, when the figures were first compiled.
The new volunteer assistance programme, which Big Brew is offering in partnership with health and wellness service Spectrum.Life, will encourage tradespeople who are experiencing anxiety, depression, loneliness, relationship issues, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or any other trauma to seek help.
Tradespeople can self-refer at any time through the charity’s website and will receive confidential counselling via freephone, live chat, WhatsApp, SMS, or a call back.
Mental health crisis
Peter Cape, Big Brew lead at BoB, said the charity has been compelled to increase the provision it offers to help turn the tide of the mental health crisis in the construction industry.
“The BEAM data is distressing – especially when you compare it to all other professions, where the suicide rate is 9.14 per 100,000,” said Cape.
“Band of Builders has a very active community of nearly 50,000 tradespeople across the UK, and they share so many heart-breaking stories of people who have been lost, are facing some very serious situations, or are generally struggling. That’s why the Big Brew came about: to raise awareness of the mental health crisis.
“As well as throwing the spotlight on the issue, we have been able to fundraise to introduce services, including a dedicated text service where construction workers can text BOB to 85258. This has proved to be an important lifeline for the construction industry.
“We also introduced a counselling service last year – but we recognised that we could offer more, and the new partnership with Spectrum.Life means we can offer a much broader level of support.”
The new platform offers counselling, legal information, financial information, consumer information, career guidance, life coaching, mediation, cancer support, autism support, elderly care support, and parent coaching.
Cape added that making increased mental health and wellbeing provision available for the UK construction industry is an important step in helping people manage mental health issues now so that they do not escalate further.
“When we launched our counselling service last year, it was a proud moment for the Big Brew and BoB – but we quickly realised that counselling alone was not enough,” he said.
“Since then, we have looked at ways to improve the service by providing a more holistic approach because it’s important that people are able to get interventions earlier or address some of the issues that are contributing towards their mental health issues.
“It’s best summed up by the old tradesperson’s van analogy: if the van is serviced on a regular basis, then it will be reliable and go on for miles. But if it’s not serviced, then the chances of it breaking down increase.”
The new service and additional support can be accessed at bandofbuilders.org/pages/wellbeing-support.