Sarah Casemore: Open discussions are vital for addressing mental health in the workplace

Anyone of us can feel stressed or overwhelmed at any time. But one in six employees in any week can feel symptoms of more common mental health issues resulting in 54% of all lost working days being attributed to stress, anxiety, or depression, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Labour force survey. It’s well documented that suicide is the number one killer of men under 45, and construction workers in the UK are more than 3.7 times more likely to take their own life than the general population.

Factors such as job insecurity, relationship issues, long hours, working remotely in a predominantly male environment, can make construction industry workers more vulnerable to mental ill health. However, the majority of people will give a different reason for absence in place of mental health or stress.

Enabling people to start a conversation about mental health while providing them with the awareness and training to have an educated and open discussion, continues to be the most immediate and effective starting point for improving mental health. Through conversations, transparent working environments can develop where career limitation, fear of reprisal, stigma and silence around mental ill-health and suicide are eliminated.

Teaching staff at every level to spot and support any signs of concern is a good starting point, but it’s recommended that this is combined with a review of policies, processes and assessment of employee views. It’s not just training staff that’s required as a tick-box exercise but, combining the wider evaluation of any impact reported by employees through development of a safe, supportive, and visible environment for disclosure that leads to the most significant changes.

Sarah Casemore is managing director of charity Mates in Mind