Jeff Hammond, managing director at HSE Training Ltd, talks about the importance of Mental Health First Aid training

It is a shocking fact that, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were over 3,000 suicides amongst people working in the construction and building trades in England between 2001 and 2017. As this trend continues, it is essential that employers recognise their responsibility to help support their workforce.

 Aside from the moral obligations, companies should also appreciate the financial benefits of mental health support for their employees. According to a report published by Deloitte in January 2020, the costs to employers of poor mental health in the workplace are substantial. Using conservative assumptions, Deloitte estimates a total annual cost to businesses of up to £45 billion. The report also makes a positive case for investment in mental health, with an average return of £5 for every £1 spent.

 In the construction industry, in particular, there are many complex factors which contribute to the horrendous industry statistics. Typically, it is a high pressure environment with tight deadlines, targets and budgets. Workers, who are frequently male, are often away from home for long periods of time leading to loneliness which in turn can drive people to drink, drugs and online gambling.

 With many workers in the building sector being self-employed, there are further financial worries through job insecurity.

 Mental Health First Aid training is not the ‘cure all’ solution but is a tremendously positive step forward. Whilst mental health issues are being increasingly recognised and more widely discussed, there is still a stigma. Many workers – and, more often than not, men – are reluctant to admit that they have a problem.

 Individuals are far more likely to discuss difficulties with fellow workers than managers or healthcare professionals. Every member of a team needs to be trained and empowered to notice signs of mental ill health and encouraged to break down barriers, provide initial help and direct colleagues to additional support.

 We are reassured that many of our clients are increasingly asking us to provide Mental Health First Aid training. Importantly, we normally deliver courses onsite in an informal environment so people don’t feel intimidated or ‘singled out’.

 It is vital that society overcomes the stigma associated with mental ill health. Greater awareness and training are major contributors in helping to challenge myths and stereotypes – approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

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