Mental Health and the game changer of talking
As an industry WE achieve amazing things. Ordinary people construct amazing projects that change the landscape of our environment and change the way we live. Achieving things that at times go unnoticed and in turn uncelebrated. Somebody’s parent, somebody’s child, somebody’s sibling, somebody’s friend often pays the highest price for such achievements. Whilst they build a future their own world can be slowly crumbling.
We seem somewhat surprised that an industry that carries an image of such a hard, resilient exterior can possibly suffer with such issues. Yet unsurprisingly in order to achieve the great we must overcome many complex issues on a daily basis and unknowingly we make the sacrifice.
Construction projects are often complex and whilst on paper we set out to achieve one thing when we arrive on site, we are more times than enough met with difficulties which result in extended programmes and increased budgets. All of which put a strain on the team at every level at some point. Twin that with remote working, in harsh environments and working long days often away from our loved ones for prolonged durations. Now building the amazing doesn’t seem so amazing and has become both daunting and stressful.
Is it right that in this high intensity environment we have our own minefield which we are afraid to deactivate? Whilst we tackle major projects are, we doing enough to tackle our own issues? Why is it that we carry on regardless afraid to talk?
Its time break down our own barriers and the wall we have built and talk to the right people. People who know the taboo, people who have lived the taboo and people who understand the consequences of carrying the unnecessary burden.
On this occasion we talk to Strongmen.
Strongmen was created by Dan Cross and Efrem Brynin, with Efrem himself being ex construction. Let’s take a moment to take his view and what he offers in return.
My background is in construction, and I continue to be involved through my consultancy business. Over the past 30 years things have changed dramatically, businesses have become more reliant on sub-contractors, particularly for site work, however, the pressure of time and budget remain, probably more so now than they did when I started in 1990.
Historically Construction is a male dominated industry and despite change it remains so today, particularly at the sharp end on site. That in itself creates an environment of a reluctance to address the subject of mental health. It is almost accepted that such a male dominated industry is so strong in its appearance and reputation that such issues could never be present.
Whilst we know and understand how the industry looks from the outside, what isn’t so well known or understood is the result of the pressure. Whilst pressure comes in many forms unfortunately there is certainly a pressure passed from office to site.
The requirement to work away from home, often for long period of time, presents its own problems, not only from the obvious pressure from home, but also the opportunity to work longer hours, ignore sensible nutrition, exercise, sleep and general wellbeing. With the added complication of sub-contract labour/installation it can be difficult for companies to understand these pressures, I could even say, it’s easy to ignore them.
I could speak about this subject for hours, the conflict between site and office, the environment of banter, the relentless pursuit of budget and programme……..
So how do you change or at least improve it? It’s very much a process of education, and that applies for all layers, literally from boardroom to site and everything in between. Understand that the decisions made at board/director level impacts the lives and livelihoods of many people. When the PM sends troops to war, have they looked into the eyes of a wife, father or son who has lost someone in battle? That education also works both ways and to change the mentality and working practises it needs to be beneficial, if someone reaches out for help, they need to know this will not negatively impact them financially or otherwise.
Many companies employ mental health first aiders or wellbeing champions but still struggle to engage with the most difficult to reach. Now put yourself in that position, would you trust someone with your most personal and darkest thoughts, bearing in mind the potential detrimental impact?
We have recently worked with other similar industries and the question we got asked the most at management level was always “how do we stimulate engagement”, our answer is generally;
- Provide the opportunity for people to talk, make that platform confidential and independent
- Empathy is key, this needs to be stimulated through examples such as StrongMen and the stories Dan and I tell. Accepting your own vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength, only when you accept that you need help can you move forward. Use physical health as an example, if you had a bad back you would treat it, why is mental health any different
- Allow feedback on both sides
- Be patient, these things take time
- Promote healthy body with healthy mind, physical and mental health are intrinsically linked
If you’d like to talk to someone at Strongmen to discuss how they could further support your organisation, please visit their website at https://www.strongmen.org.uk/
About the author
Lisa Molloy MRICS, MCICES is Commercial Director at Molloy Construction Services. with experience of working for the Client, Contractor and Sub-Contractor, with joint venture experience in Civil Engineering, Rail, Renewable Energy, Energy and Power and Oil and Gas sector. She is competent in Contract Administration and Management, Cost Control, and Delay Analysis.
For more details contact Lisa firstname.lastname@example.org or through LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisa-molloy-mrics-mcinstces-0074501a/