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Some great progress, but we must be clear what we mean by ‘mental health’

Several years ago the ‘Health in Construction Leadership Group’ (HCLG) set out to recreate the major impact of the landmark 2001 ‘John Prescott construction safety Summit’, but this time targeting occupational health.  

Early in 2017, the HCLG invited CEOs from across construction to this new Summit, and they won industry-wide commitment to a step change in how construction deals with occupational health issues.  Remarkably, even as the big players in commercial construction committed to tackling the industry’s respiratory and musculoskeletal injury problems, they also focussed on one of the toughest health challenges of all - mental health.
The 2017 Summit introduced ‘Mates in Mind’, with the support of the British Safety Council. Mates in Mind and other initiatives such as Building Mental Health (championed by Mace’s Martin Coyd) have unlocked industry dialogue, training and support in this vitally important area, and given rise to the phenomenon of the ‘Mental Health First Aider’.  

Arguably, with the initiatives above, and the realisation that the industry has a number of pressing mental health challenges, the last two years have seen more progress with mental health in construction, than in the entire history of organised building.  

This is great news for construction and those who work in it.  However, to make real progress, we need to be aware that ‘mental health’ is not one issue, but many. For example, preventing stress at work may be connected to, but is not the same as, engaging with a worker who has a diagnosed mental condition or illness.  

As the industry starts to engage with mental health issues, employers and others in the industry need to be more aware of these crucial differences, which will help us to identify the best routes to positive outcomes.

ECA has produced a one-page guide for members on good management to help engage with stress-related and mental health issues at work. It will be on the ECA members’ website in early December.