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Letter from Lesley: Taking mental health seriously

23/08/2019 - 12:37PM

There have been reports in the media over the last few days that workers on Britain’s current biggest construction site - Hinkley C near Bridgwater in Somerset – are suffering from an escalating number of mental health issues. Problems are so severe that owners, the French energy company EDF, concerned about suicide rates, are putting in place buddying systems and quiet spaces. EDF has also brought in an on-site GP and is even looking to recruit a chaplain.

Let’s be very clear about this EDF is doing the responsible thing. They are pulling out all the stops to help and address the problem.

But the fact remains that workers in construction are thought to be at around three times greater risk of finding themselves suffering from stress, anxiety and depression than workers in other industries. There are some obvious causes – people on big projects are often far away from home and family support for extended periods of time. This can lead to relationship breakdown and other problems, such as the increase in gambling and drug and alcohol abuse reported at Bridgwater. Other contributing factors can be bullying,  job insecurity and financial concerns as well as poor diet and lack of exercise. Construction also remains an overwhelmingly male workplace – like APS, the ratio of male to female workers is around 9:1.

So today’s report is a timely nudge to sign up for next week’s APS mental health webinar. APS is about the whole health of construction workers and that means mental health too. Despite attempts to get construction workers to open up about their worries and feelings – most laudably, ‘Mates in Mind’ - it can still be difficult to get people to ask for help in an industry that stubbornly prides itself on its tough ‘Yorkie’ man image. The APS webinar is a safe environment where members can learn to tackle this major health issue. You can sign up by clicking in the box on the right of the page. 

Mental health is no sissy-subject – its impact can be devastating and life-threatening with recovery a hard and challenging journey back to full health for many people. We need to get to a point where there is no stigma or distinction - people are either healthy or unwell. It’s high-time time the construction sector, in particular, stopped accepting a culture of machismo and started addressing the wall of silence around the illnesses that affect our minds - and the working conditions which cause them.

Read the Guardian report here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/13/revealed-suicide-alarm-h...

More about what EDF is doing about health mental health challenges at Hinkley C here: https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/nuclear-new-build-projects/hinkley-poin...

Source: APS

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