Mental Health and the Construction Industry: Ian Kararwa on Being a Mental Health First Aider at Lanview

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Posted on 6th March 2023

Mental Health First Aider

Mental health and support given to those suffering from mental health issues has been given more of a platform since the global pandemic began nearly 3 years ago. With 1 in 4 of us likely to experience a mental health problem each year, it’s undoubtedly a good thing that more and more is being done to help those in need, and this includes within the workplace, and the construction industry is no exception.

When considering the dangers of the construction industry, you might think about heavy machinery, working at height, or contact with dangerous materials. What may not be so obvious is mental ill-health. Absenteeism due to mental health issues within the industry is high—one-third of construction workers suffer from elevated levels of anxiety, and almost half (48%) have taken time off work owing to unmanageable stress.

MHFAiders® (Mental Health First Aiders) within the workplace give employees someone to turn to when they’re struggling with their mental health, and businesses need to ensure that they’re looking after the mental health of their staff in order to ensure both employee wellbeing and business success.

We chat to Lanview’s Assistant Quantity Surveyor, Ian Kararwa, who is himself a qualified Mental Health First Aider, to find out more about what it means to become one within a company like Lanview…

Hi Ian, so what does a Mental First Aider actually do, and how to you become one?

A Mental First Aider is a trained individual who is capable of providing initial assistance to individuals experiencing mental health problems or distress. The role of a Mental First Aider is similar to that of a physical first aider, who provides initial assistance in the event of a physical injury or illness.

A Mental First Aider is trained to identify signs of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, and to provide initial support to the person in distress. This might involve listening without judgment, offering reassurance, providing information about mental health resources, and encouraging the person to seek professional help if necessary.

To become a mental health first aider in the UK, you can take a training course offered by a certified mental health first aid instructor or organisation. The course typically involves a combination of online and in-person training, covering topics such as common mental health issues, how to recognise signs of distress, and how to provide initial support to someone experiencing a mental health crisis. The course also includes role-playing exercises and other practical activities to help you develop your skills. After completing the training, you receive a certificate indicating that you are a certified mental health first aider.

What are the responsibilities of a Mental Health First Aider? 

The responsibilities of a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) include:

Recognising the signs and symptoms of mental health issues: MHFA’s should be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

Providing initial support: Once an MHFA has identified that someone may be struggling with their mental health, they should provide initial support to help the person feel heard and understood. This may involve active listening, empathy, and reassurance.

Encouraging professional help: MHFA’s should encourage the person to seek professional help and guide them towards the appropriate resources such as a mental health professional, helpline, or support group.

Maintaining confidentiality: It is essential that MHFA’s maintain the confidentiality of the person they are supporting, unless there is a risk of harm to themselves or others.

Practicing self-care: MHFA’s should take care of their own mental health and wellbeing, as supporting others can be emotionally challenging. They should also know their limits and when to seek additional support or refer the person to a mental health professional.

Advocating for mental health awareness: MHFA’s should raise awareness about mental health issues and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness in their communities. This can include educating others about mental health, promoting self-care and resilience, and advocating for mental health resources and support.

What are the key mental health challenges in the construction industry?

The construction industry can be a challenging environment for mental health. Some of the key mental health challenges faced by those working in the industry include:

High-stress environments: The construction industry is often fast-paced, high-pressure, and deadline-driven. Workers are often faced with challenging deadlines and difficult working conditions, which can be stressful and affect mental health.

Physical demands: Construction work can be physically demanding and can lead to fatigue and exhaustion. This can affect mental health, leading to decreased motivation, mood swings, and irritability.

Long working hours: Many construction workers work long hours, which can interfere with their personal life, relationships, and self-care. Working long hours can also cause fatigue and burnout, which can negatively affect mental health.

Job insecurity: Many workers in the construction industry are employed on a project-to-project basis. This can lead to job insecurity, financial stress, and uncertainty about the future, which can negatively affect mental health.

Stigma surrounding mental health: In many workplaces, including the construction industry, there is a stigma surrounding mental health. This can make it difficult for workers to speak openly about their mental health concerns or seek help. At Lanview, we try to break the stigma, and staff are always able to come and talk to someone should they need to.

It is important for employers in the construction industry to prioritise mental health and create a supportive work environment that promotes open communication and provides resources for mental health support. This can include offering employee assistance programs, mental health training, and resources for stress management and self-care.

 

What do you think the benefits are for a business to have a Mental Health First Aider?

I think there are several benefits for a business such as ours to have a Mental Health First Aider, including:

Promoting a positive work environment: By having a designated Mental Health First Aider at Lanview, employees know that the company cares about their mental health and wellbeing. I feel this helps to promote a positive work environment, where our employees feel supported and valued.

Early intervention: Having a Mental Health First Aider on hand means that employees can access support and guidance at the earliest signs of mental health issues. This can help to prevent issues from escalating and developing into more serious mental health problems.

Improved productivity: Mental health issues can have a significant impact on an employee’s productivity and ability to work effectively. By providing early support and intervention, businesses can help to minimise the impact of mental health issues on employee performance and productivity.

Reduced absenteeism: Mental health issues are a common reason for employees being off long-term sick. By having a Mental Health First Aider on hand to provide support and guidance, businesses can help to reduce the frequency and duration of employee absences related to mental health.

Compliance with legislation: In some countries, businesses have a legal obligation to provide support and guidance for employees experiencing mental health issues. By having a Mental Health First Aider, businesses can ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations and providing adequate support to their employees.

Overall, I believe, as does the company, that having a Mental Health First Aider creates a more positive and supportive work environment, it improves employee wellbeing, and ultimately benefits the business in terms of productivity, performance, and compliance.

 

Thanks for speaking with us, Ian! You can read more of our articles and news stories here