Mental Health in the Construction Industry by Hamish Scott

Over the past couple of years we have all been involved in discussions around the difficulty and stresses related to running a business, particularly with the issues facing the construction industry. I personally was always well aware of these issues and have been involved in many discussions around the potential risks to people’s businesses, and more importantly to people’s wellbeing.

My best mate for more than 35 years is no different to you, he was a member of the Master Builders and had his own construction business. On the 6th of May my best mate took his life and left behind a partner and 3 beautiful children who he adored.

My mate was your typical builder, loved his work, loved the satisfaction of handing over projects to his clients that he was proud of.

What is clear here, is he did not choose to leave his partner and children, an illness took him, if you ignore an illness eventually it will succeed. You wouldn’t ignore cancer, so don’t ignore stress, depression, anxiety, etc as they are no different. Eventually it will catch up with you and before you know it, it is too late as you have lost the control to make the correct choice. If you are battling with stress, anxiety or any type of mental illness you need to be telling yourself it is not a weakness you are feeling, it is an illness. The cure is seeking help, not being too proud to talk.

Standing up here today whilst I’m still in the very early stages of working my way through the grief process is way out of my comfort zone, but I thought if just one person makes the decision to seek help today, or notices that someone else may need help, then it will be worth it.

Over the past couple of years, in your businesses you will have dealt with, COVID lockdowns, labour shortage, escalating costs, staff absenteeism, material supply issues, customer frustrations, delays with subcontractors, the list could go on forever. These issues all at the same time are unprecedented.

You don’t need to carry these issues on your shoulders, as they are not a reflection of you as a person, nor as a business person, they are also not a reflection on the success of your business, what they are is out of your control.

The best way through this is with a clear head so you can focus on what you can control. I’m not suggesting I’ve suddenly become an expert on the matter but you need to accept there are a lot of extra stresses in this environment and battling through it is not the way to keep yourself well.

You need to make a conscious decision that you will start putting yourself first, this way you will have a far stronger armoury to deal with staff, customer issues, etc. So make sure you take some time to focus on yourself, do something you enjoy. If you are struggling with issues in your business, take some time to think about the issues you are currently confronted with, the issues that lie ahead and write yourselves a plan. There is no rulebook to this, it may be what will I do if this project extends to 12 months instead of 6, the rulebook will be relevant to what you need for your own business. The biggest point I’d like to make is when we become stressed, we lose the rational ability to think as clearly as we normally would and eventually don’t deal with issues as we would normally, or worse, we start avoiding the issues. Having a plan or rulebook you can refer to will save you from making the hole get deeper and deeper.

If you are struggling today or have been struggling for a while, then you need to act now as the problems within the industry are likely to continue for some time yet. There is plenty of help out there, just talk. It doesn’t matter who it is, just start the process and talk to someone. A problem shared is a problem halved.

The real tragedy here is that suicide is preventable and curable. It happens far too often, and leaves behind a trail of devastation that I had no idea about. I can’t put in words the grief I’m going through or the grief my mate’s family is going through but it is by far the most pain I’ve ever witnessed people go through or felt in my life. No one ever wants to take their life and leave behind loved ones, the illness takes over. Not dealing with pressure, stress, or other mental health issues ends up in people making a devastating decision that they eventually have no control over. So, I urge you to talk to someone if you need to.

There are a lot of frustrations in the industry, you will not be immune to them, so look after yourself first and remember be kind, because the person you take your frustrations out on may be someone who is suffering.

Master Builders is here 24/7 to support our members. We are continuing to provide our member counselling service, available anytime if you need support. You can call 0508 664 981 and be connected with professional, qualified support. Find out more by clicking here. Vitae has also supplied us with the attached pamphlet if you’re after more resources and information.

We understand this is a stressful time for many people. Please visit the Mates in Construction website for more information or call the national Telehealth Service on 1737.