Mental health first aiders at Jackson Civil Engineering have spoken about the importance of recognising the issue of mental health in the workplace.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and a good time to highlight the role of the mental health first aiders throughout the company. Each one has taken training to help them spot the signs of common mental health issues and provide non-judgemental support and guidance on seeking professional support if people need it.
Sub Agent Tim Honeyball, who is currently working at the Ouse Washes site in Cambridgeshire, felt compelled to get involved after experiencing mental health issues when he was younger.
“I underwent treatment for depression and still notice the effect on my life today,” he said. “I wanted to both learn more and also be able to point other people in the right direction if required.”
Mental health in the construction industry is a topic that a growing number of people are now willing to discuss. The need for more openness on the subject has been highlighted by a range of surveys including a report from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), which found that 26% of construction industry professionals thought about taking their own lives in 2019 – even before the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the industry.
It is a subject close to the heart of Ellen Cundy, a Jackson Site Agent, who is based at the Bromford flood alleviation scheme in Birmingham.
“A distant friend of mine took his own life a few years ago, just before I did the training,” she said. “Any small thing that might help avoid the devastation that was left behind from happening again has to be worth everyone’s time and energy - who knows who I could help at work or in my personal life.”
Over in Lincolnshire, another Jackson site agent, Christopher Baker-Merrills, feels the widespread use of social media is another reason people feel under pressure today. “People have never been so vulnerable,” he added.
Jackson is working to create an atmosphere where people feel they are able have these difficult discussions. During this week it is holding a number of webinars including a session with leading behavioural safety psychologist, Dr Tim Marsh, who will be focussing on the link between mental health and work-based safety incidents.
Tim Honeyball is in no doubt, the issue of mental health must be taken seriously.
He added: “Our industry can be one where people try to hide things but that can end up compounding an issue. It’s important we provide an environment where people are able to discuss both the positives and the struggles relating to mental health.”