We don't talk about it much - in fact, not nearly enough - but construction work is tough on more than just your body. Across all UK industries, about 1 in 6 workers suffers from a common mental health problem, from anxiety to depression. That stacks up to over £90 million lost work days each year, for one thing. It also means a lot of lost money - around £26 billion, in fact.

As huge as those numbers are, they aren't really the most important issues. The real concern is that people are struggling when they shouldn't have to, and not all of them are getting through it. In fact, the figures make for some pretty sombre reading. Modern construction sites are as safe as they can be, in theory, but accidents still happen. What you might not know is that suicides in the industry outnumber fatal accidents an estimated 10 to 1. That's a horrific statistic, by any standard, and it's finally being taken seriously.

Right now, there's a major campaign in the works, aiming to put mental health at the forefront of the construction industry. The Mates in Mind initiative offers training and support to tackle the issue and help those affected.

  • Step 1 is raising awareness that the problems exist in the first place.
  • The second, probably harder, step is going to be convincing people to talk openly about it.If you have friends that you think need to see this message, please send them these links. 

Right now, Mates in Mind is championed by Willmott Dixon, Balfour Beatty and Careys. The campaign's being led by the Health in Construction Leadership Group and the British Safety Council. The idea is to spread the word as widely as possible, and to encourage workers and employers to get talking about mental health. By 2025, they're hoping to have most of the industry pulling together and solving the problems.

A lot of it's going to come down to how willing affected people are to talk through their mental health issues. The danger is that no one wants to be singled out as a weak link, especially in an industry where teamwork is everything. By getting the industry talking, Mates in Mind is hoping to stamp out the stigma that surrounds and conceals so many mental health issues. There'll be training on offer for senior managers, helping them to spot problems they might otherwise miss. Workers themselves will also be able to learn what to do if they're struggling, or know someone who is.

So far, over 300 industry leaders have got involved in the project, Mates in Mind has the backing of Mental Health First Aid England, the Samaritans and Mind, the mental health charity. It's already gathering momentum, but there's lots to be done and no time to waste.

Getting the industry talking at all about mental health is a major start. Now it's time to give construction the support and information it needs to tackle it. That's the Mates in Mind message, and it's worth spreading.

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