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Tough as Old Boots? Lets talk Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Jay Johnston talks to Construction News about the stigma of mental health within the Construction Industry.

The perception is that construction is seen as  a ‘tough as old boots’, pretty much male dominated sector, so the last thing on their agenda can be addressing  things like mental health and how people are feeling.
“Mental Health” is a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional wellbeing. These are not words often heard in conversations on our construction sites.

Mental health issues will affect one in four people at some point during their lifetime. With construction employing around 3 million people, it goes without saying that a huge number of industry workers could be affected.

As visible beings, we can deal with physical problems. We can see and understand a deep cut or a broken bone. What is harder to spot is someone suffering on the inside.

This isn’t just something we can push aside. The impact of mental health can be just as destructive to business performance and team working, as the obvious physical accidents and illnesses that we seem able to focus on.

Mental health covers a range of things, including stress, anxiety, and depression. So, do we know who these people are? Can we spot any early signs that our colleagues may need our help? What are we doing about it?
My son has recently started work in our industry and one thing he has said to me struck home in this regard. The camaraderie and “banter” is incredible. Our industry is almost unique in that respect –“many subjects which are taboo in other workplaces are not taboo in ours”.

Its just such an environment where real progress can be made. There is no “silver bullet” to overcome the challenge but by recognising an issue and talking freely about it, we can make a real difference.
Osborne, alongside many other construction companies, will be focusing on “mental health” throughout 2017. Working with the mental health charity, Mind we aim to help de-stigmatise mental health on our sites.

Jay Johnston is the Osborne Head of Safety, Health and Environment (SHE)

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