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Mental Health First Aiders in the Construction Industry

22nd January 2021

Why are Mental Health First Aiders important in the construction industry?

Try as we might, workplaces can be stressful. In trying times, no one is immune to stress, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, and even during a standard 9 to 5 workday, it can be difficult to keep your mental health in tip-top condition.

No industry is without its mental health risks, including the construction industry.

Many people may harbour the preconceived notion that the only time people need help with their mental health is when they’re at breaking point, which may prevent people accessing the help they need.

This is particularly true within the construction industry, as studies have revealed that the suicide rate for manual construction workers is three times higher than the average for males in the UK.

These high rates of suicide suggest that even if they’re feeling the stress of the job, many men in the construction industry aren’t seeking any help for mental health problems they may be experiencing. Naturally, it’s not only men who are suffering from mental health issues in the industry.

With the aid of mental first aid training, more mental health first aiders can be introduced into the construction industry.

What do mental health first aiders do?

Funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the Building Mental Health (BMH) is an online portal that was founded by The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity with a five-step framework designed to improve mental health in the construction industry.

Building Mental Health has trained hundreds of mental health first aiders, with the goal of training more each year. These first aiders have been trained to discuss mental health with construction workers, on every level of the industry, and aim to remove the stigma of mental health issues.

However, there’s much more to mental health first aid than simply sitting someone down for a chat and a cup of tea. Although this is often the first step, they have also been trained to:

  • Recognise early warning signs of mental health issues, such as always being tired, having low energy, or frequently acting negatively.
  • Reduce the stigma and discrimination around mental health issues.
  • Help a person recover from a mental health issue, including being someone to support a recovering alcoholic.
  • Follow mental health first aid action plans that encourage and promote the recovery of good mental health, such as spreading awareness of mental health first aid services.
  • Use enhanced interpersonal skills, such as engaging in active listening.
  • Discuss many different mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, alcohol & drug misuse and psychosis.
  • Provide mental health first aid in a crisis. These situations can include times a person may be at risk to themselves or others.
  • Advise on further support services, such as self-help, NHS services, discussing issues with employers, or a combination of these solutions.

What can businesses do to successfully introduce mental health first aid?

There are several ways a business can ensure that they have what they need to tend to mental health issues with mental health first aiders. For example, the BMH framework establishes the following steps:

  1. Commit to making a difference: naturally, the first step is to make the commitment to introducing better ways of addressing mental health issues.
  2. Set up a hotline: there are various services, help packs or hotlines you can make use of. You can also engage in employee assistance programmes (EAPs).
  3. Present a mental health talk: engaging with your employees is the best way to establish that there are services that are available to them. Whether it’s simply a presentation or you make it an interactive session, spend a minimum of an hour talking to all of your employees about help available for dealing with mental health issues.
  4. Provide mental health training: once everyone in your workforce is aware of the help available, you should provide further, in-depth training for select employees. This can include management and foremen. It should be a specialised course that teaches them the necessary tools for dealing with mental health issues.
  5. Have enough mental health first aiders on-site: finally, you should ensure that your employees always have someone they can approach while at work.

However businesses decide to approach mental health first aid, it’s certain to be beneficial to employees. Some may dismiss them or feel too proud to make use of these services, but by eliminating the stigma around mental health issues, a business can make it easier for those who really need help to pursue it, ultimately potentially saving lives.

If you’re interested in this course either for yourself or your employees – take a look at our sister company 3B Training’s website for details of their upcoming courses.

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