The efforts to give mental health and wellbeing issues the attention and support that they deserve have been significant in recent years. Campaigners from across the third sector, government, public bodies and business have worked tirelessly to develop and fund new initiatives and campaigns to support people experiencing mental health challenges.
In the UK, according to research from MIND, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year and every week one in six people in England report having a common mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. At Costain, we believe that just as our business has a duty of care to protect the physical health and safety of our employees and supply chain we also need to look after their mental health and wellbeing too.
However, the construction sector’s macho image can sometimes be a barrier to breaking down the stigma the industry’s workforce associates with mental health challenges. This is a problem because ultimately it translates into an unwillingness among workers to get the support they need when experiencing a problem. Businesses across the sector acknowledge that the status quo is not good enough and we are working hard to overcome this.
Mental health first aiders
I have long been a champion of improving mental health and wellbeing and the rail team is at the forefront of the business’ efforts to support staff and people in our supply chain experiencing mental health issues. Across our 13 projects, we have 85 qualified mental health first aiders who are always on hand to listen to colleagues and point them in the direction of professional advice should they require it. We know that their support is invaluable with our first aiders helping colleagues around 10 times per month on average – in addition all our line managers have been given mental health awareness training.
In the past 12 months, Costain has expanded its Employee Assistance Programme, which offers all staff anonymous counselling services, to our supply chain. Additionally, we hosted our inaugural Wellbeing Week including launching our wellbeing portal. Leadership on mental health issues comes from the executive board and the wellbeing initiatives were spearheaded by Costain’s chief financial officer, Tony Bickerstaff.
State of Mind
In the rail division, we are also going to be offering team members the chance to participate in State of Mind seminars going forward. These involve former professional sportspeople, in this instance rugby league players, speaking about their own mental health struggles and how they overcame them. In doing so they reinforce the message that it is ok for staff to get support and that mental health issues can truly affect anyone at any time.
It is initiatives like these that can help break down the stigma that still exists among construction workers and encourage them to access the support they need. However, we are not complacent, we want to work with and learn from more partners across the industry to ensure that we can all offer our employees the best possible mental support.
This article was written by Nicola Uijen, rail SHE director, Costain