Encouraging colleagues – particularly men – to open up and share their mental health challenges is key to addressing the suicide rate in construction
Recently, I had the honour of receiving the Volunteer of the Year award from the Bassetlaw Community and Voluntary Service.
This recognition means a lot to me and highlights my dedication to making a positive impact, particularly through my involvement with In Sam’s Name.
In Sam’s Name is a vital platform for men in North Nottinghamshire who are going through challenging times.
The charity, inspired by my dear friend Sam "Sponge" Fisher, focuses on addressing mental health challenges and aims to create a positive impact within the community.
It is a safe space where men can confidentially share their thoughts, find support and build strength together.
I recently participated in The Baton of Hope, a national campaign raising awareness for mental health. This entailed a 22-mile walk from Worksop to Sheffield to raise money for In Sam’s Name, carrying the baton as a representative of the group.
Suicide awareness raising
The Baton of Hope is designed to be the biggest suicide awareness and prevention initiative in the UK, raising necessary conversations, reducing stigma and prompting appropriate actions.
The organisation is helping to raise particular awareness around suicide support and prevention in the workplace through its Workplace Charter.
Mental health and wellbeing are serious issues for the construction industry, particularly for men – as CIOB has previously highlighted – who are at the highest risk of dying by suicide.
A study of construction workers conducted by CIOB found that, over the previous year, 91% had felt overwhelmed and 26% had experienced suicidal thoughts.
However, despite these sobering figures, Mates in Mind found that more than two thirds of construction workers believe there is a stigma around mental health, which stops them from talking about it.
This is one of the many reasons why it is important to create a positive culture within construction environments and offer confidential support to encourage staff to reach out for help, advice or a conversation.
According to the CIOB report, one way that this can be instilled is through staff training, which can emphasise the importance of good mental health and wellbeing, as well as demonstrate the resources that are available.
My aim for Altrad is to create greater mental health awareness for all staff in the workplace, especially for managers and supervisors.
As well as promoting positive mental health across the business, it is also important to provide a safe space on site with a trained mental health first aider.
Altrad currently offers an employee assistance programme that employees can access for confidential help, and the company is investing in further support for its workforce.
Following a successful trial of ‘first aid mental health’ training, which was delivered in partnership with Mental Health First Aid England, Altrad’s management board has decided to expand this training across the UK.
The objective is that this will establish a positive culture for all staff and encourage employees to seek help if needed.
Hopefully, this will help to shape a norm throughout the sector so that all workers can access a universal standard of support.
Richard McHugh is an asbestos supervisor at Altrad and founder of In Sam’s Name.
The Samaritans provides 24/7 support on 116 123. The Lighthouse Club also provides a confidential 24/7 support helpline on 0345 605 1956 to anyone in the industry who needs financial or wellbeing support.