The construction industry has long been vulnerable to mental health issues due to the stifling crises, strenuous hours, and job insecurity – as today marks World Mental Health Day, it is time to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health in the construction industry and understand the dire need to improve support readily available to tradespeople. 

Tragically, Bagnalls revealed that two construction workers commit suicide every day, amounting to 700 people every year, and now support helplines are experiencing a surge in workers using their services – the Lighthouse Construction Industry revealed they receive 400 calls a month from families within the construction industry who are in crisis. The need to improve the support available to employees and business owners in the industry is further highlighted in new research from Fix Radio – the UK’s only national radio station dedicated to builders and the trades – which shows that a shocking 38% of tradesmen are now experiencing the worst levels of stress and anxiety in their lifetime. 

Adding to this, research from Ironmongery Direct shows that 64% of tradespeople experience work-related stress at least once a month, with the report showing that a high workload, tensions with customers and finances are the top three causes of stress for tradespeople. But despite its widespread effect, being a predominantly male-dominated sphere, 69% of tradespeople said that there is still a stigma within the sector surrounding seeking help for mental health problems – according to industry research. 

In search of support, the demand for national helplines highlights the growing desperation among industry professionals. The Big Brew, a national helpline, revealed that over a third of texts were from individual construction workers contemplating suicide, with 16% of those related to depression. Highlighting the urgency of this crisis, the helpline further unveiled that 80% of their usage occurs during the working week.

This comes at a challenging time, where overwhelming work schedules, material shortages and new environmental directives, has left hundreds of thousands of small businesses – equalling 27% of SMEs in the trade – on the verge of breaking point, Fix Radio’s study found.

Where can tradespeople go for help?
The Lighthouse Club is 100% focused on improving the welfare and wellbeing of the construction community in the UK and Ireland. They provide a range of free and pro-active services to help companies deliver the best possible support to their employees and their families:
24/7 Confidential Helpline: Available to everyone on your site including subcontractors, agency workers and allied trades. Their Construction Industry Helpline covers all aspects of emotional, physical and financial wellbeing and is available in many different languages through our partnership with translation services.
Self-support app: Downloadable Wellbeing Support App called ‘Construction Industry Helpline’ that covers all the aspects of wellbeing. The app is packed with information to learn about conditions, how to develop coping strategies with signposting to over 3000 accredited organisations that provide support. It really is a ‘mate’ in your back pocket.
Text HardHat: 24/7 service that gives immediate access to text back counselling.
Masterclasses Wellbeing: These are 1-hour scheduled CPD Accredited wellbeing education sessions covering topics such as managing stress, building resilience, work-life balance, mindfulness, meditation, financial management and many more.
Lighthouse Beacons: They have identified over 160 volunteer centres around the UK and Ireland where workers can meet like-minded people, socialise and talk. The Beacons are facilitated by individuals with lived experience and in this confidential environment, encourage those struggling with life problems to share their issues and if required, seek further help.

In addition, Clive Holland, host of The Clive Holland Show, has shared his thoughts on how the mental health crisis is impacting the trades sector:

“There are several underlying reasons why the rate of suicide in the construction trades is so high. Firstly, there is a macho image in the industry, and men are not brilliant at ‘opening up’ and discussing their feelings. But I feel that this is changing slowly but surely.
“Secondly, a lot of stress is involved in running a small business – there are long hours, few holidays, slow payers and cash flow issues. In the last two years particularly, spiralling costs of materials and spiking energy prices have squeezed margins even further. Couple that with the growing skills shortage – it ramps up extra pressures on daily site life. The pandemic has magnified many of these problems – tradespeople will tell you that they have never been this busy. Many are fully booked until the end of the year, if not further.
“It is also worth remembering that while many of our tradespeople have fantastic skills and deliver outstanding work, the weakest part of their game is dealing with the details of their business. Great tradespeople are not necessarily great businesspeople and it is worth remembering that they often feel intimidated by the admin and financial side of the business.”