Building an alliance to support mental health in construction sector

Building Mental Health Alliance aims to support mental health in NI construction industry…

Building Mental Health Alliance (BMHA), a body consisting of a collaboration of industry bodies, large contractors and other workplace health and safety organisations from across Northern Ireland was officially launched at an event marking World Mental Health Day (October 10) at CITB NI. 

The BMHA will work together with the aim to create better mental health awareness, support and training for everyone working within the NI Built Environment sector. 

Mental ill health within the construction industry is a growing issue. Statistics from the construction mental health charity Mates In Mind show that two people working in construction in the UK die by suicide every day and that suicide rates among construction workers are more than three times higher than the national average. 

With a focus on supporting with a culture of openness, BMHA’s objectives are to:

• Create a working environment that aids good mental health for all.

• Promote better awareness of mental health issues.

• Support/promote sector specific initiatives aiming to improve awareness and acceptance of issues around mental health. 

• Support/promote initiatives that provide meaningful support and 

guidance to individuals.

First steps

As part of the launch BMHA announced some of its first outputs including:

• The Construction Skills Register (CSR) will now include a mental health module in the basic health and safety training delivered to approximately 20,000 construction workers a year in Northern Ireland. The module will highlight signs of mental ill health to look out for and signpost candidates to some of the organisations and charities that provide help and advice locally.

• A toolbox talk that can be delivered on sites. This aims to raise awareness at site level of the issues that could be impacting those working on the site and how they can get help.

• An awareness video that demonstrates to construction workers the importance of looking out for their colleagues and that support exists for those experiencing mental ill health.

Wilson Lambe, BMHA Chair, commented, “It was fantastic to see such a great turnout at the event which highlights how seriously the industry takes the issue of mental ill health. The actions announced today are just the start of what the Building Mental Health Alliance plans to do. Further initiatives will be announced shortly and it’s vitally important the whole of the construction industry works together to make better mental health a priority.”

Siobhan O’Neill, Northern Ireland Mental Health Champion, who presented at the event commented, “It’s clear that employment in the construction industry is associated with a particular set of challenges that can impact on workers’ mental health. It’s heartening to see such a wide range of representatives coming together to start to tackle this issue. By creating a culture of openness and breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, individuals will feel more comfortable when raising any issues affecting their mental health and disclosing mental health difficulties.”

Mental health support

BMHA is keen to raise awareness of the fantastic work of organisations that provide guidance and support in Northern Ireland. These eleven organisations attended the launch to highlight the services they provide: Action Mental Health, Aware NI, Cause, Helplines NI, Inspire Wellbeing, HSENI (Mental Wellbeing Team), Lighthouse Club- The Construction Industry Charity, Lifeline, Mindwise, PIPS Charity and Samaritans.

For more information about the BMHA, contact Ernie Spence, Joint Secretary of the NI Safety Group, T: +44 (0)28 9336 8928 / Mob: +44 (0)7938 049270.