Creating a supportive environment for men’s mental health

Creating a supportive environment for men’s mental health

By Andy Leivers, HSE Manager, Energy Assets

Research undertaken by *Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), in conjunction with the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, shows that the suicide rate for construction occupations continues to rise.

Using ONS data, GCU’s most recent report (December 2022) identified a rate of 33.82 suicides per 100,000 in 2021, an increase from 25.52 per 100,000 in 2015 – nearly four times the national occupational average. In addition, across the entire workforce in Britain, Health and Safety Executive statistics show there were an estimated 914,000 cases of work-related stress, depression, or anxiety in 2021/22.

It seems clear that even though mental health wellbeing is higher up employer agendas – and more talked about in society as a whole – there is still much for us to do collectively.

Encouraging people to seek help

In the workplace, corporate culture is critical. The Energy Assets ethos is founded on enabling an appropriate work-life balance, encouraging physical wellbeing and making it easy for every member of the team to receive mental health support. As part of this commitment, we’re developing a network of 24 mental health first aiders to look for telltale signs of stress and anxiety and to help our people access the help they need as soon as possible.

Of course, mental health is an issue that crosses all genders and industries, but it does seem that construction-related sectors, which remain heavily male-dominated, face more cultural issues than others.

Our approach is to provide the resources to encourage our people to recognise symptoms, be pro-active in seeking help, and build resilience founded on coping mechanisms.

Being pro-active in addressing workplace stress

Of course, stress is not solely a work-related concern. Often, it manifests itself in the workplace, but the root causes can be unseen and be the result of many different factors, such as life changes, peer pressure, physical worries, addictions or social isolation.

However, the work environment can also be a trigger for anxiety, so spotting changes in behaviour and recognising symptoms is key to offering proactive support, which can include mental health risk assessments and a plan to help address root causes.

Work must be the place where we extend a helping hand, which means developing the emotional intelligence and cultural empathy to act.

Taking a pro-active approach can help breakdown the stigma that is too often associated with mental health issues, particularly it seems in a male-centric environment. For Energy Assets, this action includes training line-managers with relevant skills, creating posters and bulletins to educate and inform, and offering life-skills guidance that not only helps our people manage their own physical and mental health wellbeing but also lend support to their wider circle of friends and family.

Creating a supportive environment

A lot of good work is underway among construction groups and charities, including The Lighthouse Charity, with resources such as toolbox talks freely available. The ‘Make It Visible Portal’ and app provides free access to information, advice and guidance covering emotional, physical and financial wellbeing, while, outside construction, Andy’s Man Club offers free support groups across the UK and online.  

In the case of Energy Assets, in addition to mental health first-aiders, we offer a dedicated 24/7 employee assistance programme, support for counselling, and have set-up a mental health committee to promote better understanding of stress and anxiety across the organisation.

We know that as employers, we can’t influence every aspect of the lives of our people; we can’t undo all the things that create stress; but we can play an important role in spotting problems and be ready to listen and offer a way forward.

*Glasgow Caledonian University Report

This blog reflects Samaritans’ media guidelines for writing about suicide, notably by acknowledging the complexities of this issue and encouraging people to seek help.

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