1 in 6 UK construction workers will experience depression, anxiety or stress and a 3 times higher risk of taking their own lives than the national average. More than 1,400 construction workers in the UK took their own lives between 2011 and 2015.The number of suicides among those working in construction trades was the highest of any profession over that period. These statistics led the Environment Agency to take urgent action.
Why did you decide to undertake this action?
The Environment Agency delivers a diverse range of services that work towards creating better places for people and wildlife, and to support sustainable development. Our Field Operations teams are responsible for river and asset maintenance. Their work is predominantly field based construction and maintenance.
1 in 6 UK construction workers will experience depression, anxiety or stress and a 3 times higher risk of taking their own lives than the national average (c. 11,000 work suicides in 2017).
More than 1,400 construction workers in the UK took their own lives between 2011 and 2015.
The number of suicides among those working in construction trades was the highest of any profession over that period.
Of the 13,232 in-work suicides recorded by the Office for National Statistics, those within the skilled construction and building trades made up 13.2 per cent – despite construction accounting for little over 7 per cent of the UK workforce.
Who did you want to benefit from it?
We are specifically targeting our Field Operations teams as we have previously established that they are a hard group to engage in our Wellbeing initiatives. Working with Mates in Mind we wanted to raise awareness, address the stigma of poor mental health and promote positive mental wellbeing within the Field Operations teams. Our aim is to reach everyone in Field Operations and there are two different training approaches provided by Mates in Mind to support this. For Team Members there is “Starting the Conversation”, it is 45 minutes of identifying ways to look after your own mental health, recognising the signs if a colleague might need help and what to do in those circumstances.
For Team Leaders there is “Managing the Conversation”, which is 3 hours and covers listening skills, creating a safe talking environment and establishing a plan of action and follow up conversations.
Who was involved in delivering it?
There is a Health, Safety and Wellbeing Business Partner who leads the delivery of the programme. Working very closely with geographic area contacts who work within the teams we are targeting.
What did you do?
We launched the programme and piloted the training sessions within our Greater Manchester and Cheshire Areas with a view to rolling out to other geographical areas once we’d looked at any learning and improvements we could make.
Shortly afterwards we rolled out the training to three other geographical areas, with the others following over the next 12 months or so.
We are also linking the programme into our Healthy Minds and Healthy Bodies initiatives that are available to all Environment Agency staff.
What has been the result?
Initially audiences are a bit reserved but as the sessions progress a good level of discussion and sharing develops that has not been seen before. The sessions were well supported, and everyone present engaged with the trainers and with their colleagues. Naturally the subject material can trigger some introspection, however, it seemed the balance was spot on and encouraged openness.
Feedback has been really positive, some examples are:
“I feel closer to some of my colleagues just from attending the workshops with them and feel that they see that my door is always open if and when they want to talk”.
“Thanks for a very good course I found it very interesting and very useful and a great trainer”.
“Thanks for the course today I found it quite interesting I also think it would be quite a good course for team members to attend. Great trainer thanks”.
The feedback shows that Mates in Mind offered a great opportunity to engage with colleagues about mental health and the sessions has also encouraged more people to become Wellbeing Supporters. A network of volunteer colleagues who have experience of mental ill health.
How have you measured impact and success?
We will be able to measure the impact and success of the programme by looking at our sickness absence for mental health issues, the results of staff survey results and Mind Index survey results.
We’ll also be open to feedback throughout the programme on its success.
What did you learn and is there anything you would do differently if you were to go back in time?
As we are still in the early stages of the roll out, we are learning all the time what works and what doesn’t for Field Operations and are able to adapt the programme as we move along.
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