To support Mental Health Awareness Week, we sat down with Ryan O’Loughlin, Director at Henry Boot Construction and Trustee for the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity to discuss the importance of mental health within the construction industry as well as ways that everyone can help to improve the industry’s wellbeing.
The construction industry can be extremely rewarding, and provides an opportunity to work with some amazingly talented individuals.
On the flip side, it also has many challenges that can influence poor mental health. The cyclical nature of the industry, long hours, commuting and fluctuating pay are all contributing factors. The industry has also struggled to shake off a ‘macho’ culture, where people are expected to work through their issues, and the harsh reality is that construction is the number one industry for suicides. Every working day we lose two construction workers to suicide.
I have been brought up in and around construction and have seen some of the challenges first-hand, but I also feel very fortunate that it has provided me with a fantastic career.
The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity has been around for over 60 years, and is the only charity that is 100% dedicated to the emotional, physical and financial wellbeing of construction workers and their families. The charity’s CEO Bill Hill and the team do an amazing job, and my role as a trustee is an opportunity to make a small contribution to this good work and give something back to the industry.
Its mission is that “no construction worker or their family should be alone in a crisis”. They provide a free 24/7 confidential helpline and self-help app, a free text HARHAT support service and free online wellbeing masterclasses and MHFA England training. They have also recently developed their Company Supporter programme to include a ‘Road to Wellbeing’ strategy that ensures support at every level of the business from site operatives to managers. Last year they provided £1.2m in charitable services.
I believe in the first instance to improve mental health, we as individuals can all look out for each other by offering some friendly support. Nobody is expecting anyone to diagnose mental health conditions – it is about listening and signposting if someone needs help. My experience at Henry Boot is that we have always been good at this – it is embedded in our culture, the ‘Henry Boot Way’. We have the support of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and Mental Health First Aiders that underpin these behaviours. These support systems can help our people to feel more supported if they are struggling.
Outside of the company I still think we can still do more. There are thousands of non-Henry Boot people that we interact with who might not have the benefit of an EAP. We should be reaching out to these people and raising awareness of the support that is available through charities such as the Lighthouse Club Charity. Their ‘Help Inside the Hard Hat’ campaign provides a huge range of free pro-active support and resource for the construction community. At Henry Boot Construction we are raising awareness with mental health toolbox talks, posters and signposting Mental Health First Aiders, and are also looking at increasing the number of touchpoints with some new initiatives this year.”
Thank you, Ryan, for sharing an insight into mental health within the construction industry. If you’d like to find out more about the support and initiatives discussed above, please visit our Company Supporters page.