Mental Health in Construction

Insights / 1 October 2020 by Ghitta Basson / Rewindyourmind
Credit : Ghitta Barson

By Ghitta Basson – rewindyourmind.co.uk

After spending some time working in construction and offering my services to construction I want to start a mental health debate and I’m hoping everyone from all levels in construction would join in the debate. I had quite an in-depth discussion with someone last night about the mental health support received or not received on construction sites. Yes, there is still a stigma about opening up about Mental health. There is still a stigma about being weak if you suffer from mental health. Operatives on-site still won’t speak up. They still won’t reach out. They still won’t speak to their supervisors when they are struggling. The problem is, from what I gather, that they are replaceable.

Literally in 24 hours.

– You don’t want to work, no problem, we will let you go.

– You need some time out to recover? No problem, bye-bye.

– You tell me your mind is broken and you can’t do the job, no problem, someone else can.

– Ah, you broke your leg? Take some time out, get better and we’ll see you in 2 weeks.

The problem is… When your mind is broken, you are even more danger to yourself and to others, especially on a construction site, because you can’t focus, you make mistakes, and mistakes on a site can be detrimental, it can even cause death.

So if you’re mind is broken, it is just as bad, if not worse, than working with a broken leg.

So people on site keep quiet. They don’t talk about their struggles, they don’t ask for help and keep pushing on, on their own. This ultimately means they are slowly worsening and some have sudden panic attacks, or worse, heart attacks. They have burnout or a mental break down or, touch wood, commit suicide.

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No one around them knows their struggles. No one can support them and they don’t get the necessary time out that they so desperately need to get better.

All they keep getting is pressure, pressure, pressure to get the job done for the next milestone, the next deadline. And for those of you that work in construction, you know that never ends.

The moment you completed your deadline… That very moment, the clock starts ticking for the next deadline. The pressure never stops.

I was explaining this week to a bunch of operatives what chronic stress is.

It is Long, Prolonged, without the opportunity to Relax.

And that is basically what construction is.

It’s just constant. There’s never a break. Operatives work 10-12 hour shifts, most of the time hard labor. Some sites run 24/7. Deadlines have been pushed back for weeks, months, even years. The pressure doesn’t stop. There’s no time to just breathe!

So I want to urge everyone in construction, from the top of the ladder to the very bottom to join in this debate.

How do we fix this?

How do we help these operatives?

How do we change the stigma?

How do we change the idea of ‘a broken brain doesn’t mean a thing’ – get back to work or else you will be replaced?

How do we change the hours these people are working, not seeing their families, not having time for doctors, therapists, nevermind getting ENOUGH SLEEP!?

Construction has some of the highest rates of suicide in the UK with up to 25% more than any other trade!

There’s a reason for that!

Constant pressure 24/7 365 days a year, working ridiculously long hours, no work-life balance, no time for family and friends, heck no time for sleeping either!

Somethings got to give and normally it’s our mental health!

But have we really tapped into it? Are the people at the top making these demands and pushing down the pressure really noticing it, really wanting to make a change? If you are someone making these decisions and pushing these deadlines – do you ever get out on site? Do you know what is happening? How it is affecting these operatives?

Something has got to change and soon too! We are almost in 2020 in a first world country. We are sending people to Mars but we can’t keep our own people healthy and happy!

Wake up, people!

Change needs to happen. From the top all the way down to the bottom.

I challenge you to come up with suggestions that won’t just change your thinking, or change a project, but to change the entire construction trade, to change a nation!

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Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll join in the debate!

Ghitta Basson

www.rewindyourmind.co.uk

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