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World Mental Health Day

10/10/2019
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Engineering industries across the globe, be they Oil & Gas, Mining & Minerals or any other sector all place a strong emphasis on the health and safety of their workforces. On World Mental Health Day, employers are being challenged to consider the mental health of their workforces too.

It’s an issue that anyone could potentially face at some point in their lives. According to mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Globally, the World Health Organisation estimates that 450 million people suffer from psychological or neurological disorders.

But what exactly is mental health? In short, it’s an individual’s social, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Without help, individuals suffering from mental health issues can suffer from anxiety, extreme lethargy, feelings of isolation, guilt, an inability to find pleasure in things and much more. Depression and other forms of poor mental health can be brought on by biological or experiential factors (or a mixture of both). 

Being able to spot these signs, in yourself and others, is extremely important.
World Mental Health Day 2018.
Mental health in the workplace

An independent review of mental health and employers conducted by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer for the UK government late last year revealed some startling statistics and set out a series of actions that employers can take to address the very real personal and business costs of poor mental health.

Firstly, 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions.

Secondly, around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition.

Thirdly, there is a large annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion (with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism- when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work) with additional costs from sickness absence and staff turnover.

The human cost of poor mental health is significant, and the report notes can lead to the ultimate human cost of loss of life through suicide. With rates of poor mental health and suicide being higher for employees in certain industries. An industry highlighted for particular focus was the construction industry.

Shaun Atkins of Willmott Dixon Construction was quoted in the report, highlighting the industry’s battle with high rates of poor mental health:

“Pressures vary significantly across different industries. In the predominantly male construction industry, rates of suicide are particularly high, specific pressures include physically hard work, cold and harsh work environments, low pay, long hours, time pressures, job-insecurity and a ‘macho’ culture. All of these things along with significant periods away from home can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness and poor mental health”.

What can employers do to support the mental health of their workforce?

A good starting point is to consider the recommendations of the government review referenced above. Thriving at Work: the Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers sets out a series of ‘mental health core standards’ that it suggests all employers should adopt.

To maintain the mental health of your workforce, you should:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan.

  • Develop mental health awareness among employees.

  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.

  • Provide your employees with good working conditions.

  • Promote effective people management.

  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

  • By implementing the above actions, employers can make significant strides towards improving and maintaining the mental health of their workforces.

    You CAN get help

    We know that engineering industries have a long way to go with regards mental health. These are challenging industries that often involve extended periods away from work, harsh working conditions, fluctuating employment and much else.

    We want to emphasise the importance of engineering industries adopting the above mental health core standards, but we also want to emphasise that even if your company doesn’t have the above standards you can still get help.

    If you require help and support you can contact the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123, or if you are based outside of the UK Befrienders Worldwide, who are only a phone call away.

    On World Mental Health Day, and every other day, take the time to look out for those who may be finding it hard to cope.
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    World Mental Health Day - Time to read 4 min
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