In today’s culture, mental health is being brought more and more into the forefront every day. Years of research into statistics and data related to suicide and mental health have revealed that illnesses such as anxiety and depression thrive on silence- prompting a global endeavour to ensure those suffering know they don’t have to struggle alone. 

The Statistics 

Research into the construction industry and mental health reveals the unsettling degree to which construction and roofing professionals are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. Although statistics help to highlight the severity of the issue, it’s also important to remember that this is a very human issue- every percentage laid out represents hundreds if not thousands of people that keep the construction industry going. 

Last year, Causeway Technologies held a survey speaking to over 14,000 workers across the country, 56% of which reported they were currently or had been struggling with their mental health. Anxiety was amongst the largest of these issues (40%), followed closely by depression (37%), with fatigue and feeling overwhelmed also coming as some of the most dominant symptoms. One respondent to this survey that shined a light on another component of the struggles facing workers had this to say: “In 10 years of working in construction, I’ve never experienced a site that seems to really care about your mental wellbeing.”

A survey by Mates in Mind in 2022 also revealed equally disturbing data. Over two thirds of construction workers responding to the survey believed there was a stigma surrounding mental health, which stopped them from discussing their issues with others. On top of this, 91% of respondents reported they had felt overwhelmed at times and unable to deal with stress adequately, with 48% of workers having to take time away from work owing to unmanageable stress. 

In another report from the Chartered Institute of Building in 2019, research also revealed that 56% of construction professionals work for organisations with no policies on mental health in the workplace. 

The most difficult to read statistics show that in 2021, 507 construction workers took their own lives- equivalent to two every working day. This means that more construction workers died from suicide than from falls from height.

According to the Office of National Statistics, there were more than 13,000 suicides of construction workers between 2011 and 2015, representing 13% of suicides of the total workforce, whilst construction workers only account for 7% of the working population. 

The factors

Trying to combat the epidemic of mental health issues that the construction and roofing industry suffers with means delving into external factors, and why this industry in particular is so hard hit by illnesses such as anxiety and depression. 

Although there is an ever-growing presence of female workers in the construction and roofing industry, it is still a largely male dominated line of work, and as such the additional struggles of mental male health effect the industry at large. The struggles of men’s mental health are well documented, and it is safe to say the stigma of “manning up” and keeping your struggles to yourself are equally as prevalent in the construction industry. In fact, the manual nature of many construction roles means the industry has an especially “macho” stereotype, which can have far reaching consequences for the mental health of workers.

There are also the practical factors to consider that add additional stressors on to those working construction. One of the biggest contributors to poor mental health from respondents was lack of job security, as well as irregular working hours which also topped the list of additional stresses. The fast-paced nature of the construction industry also means that many sites share a culture of getting on with work regardless of the conditions, a mindset that unfortunately seems to have trickled into many workers consideration when it comes to mental health.

The combination of physically taxing work and lack of security for construction and roofing workers is a dangerous one. Many workers face a predicament of choosing livelihood over their own health, and the concerns within the construction industry of what happens when workers can no longer contend with the physical conditions of trade work are an ever-prevalent issue for the industry. These type of long term stressors combined with tough physical conditions are exactly the type of ingredients that can combine into additional mental struggles for workers, which hold the key to unlocking and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in the industry.

What can be done?

Companies across the construction industry are starting to put more and more of their efforts into helping to support workers undergoing mental stress, and trying to fight and break down the stigma of silence that surrounds mental health in the industry. Despite collective efforts, the subject of mental health especially within the construction industry is still a taboo topic of conversation, and understandably not one that is easy to talk about. 

One of the best tools to combat this mental health crisis lies in education, of both industry professionals and the workers that are in their care. Like any other form of disease, it’s important to be able to recognise the symptoms of mental struggles in order to address them before the situation can snowball and get worse. Worsening mental health can manifest in many ways, and often these signs come before the individual is even aware themselves. Things such as worsening hygiene, attempts to self-medicate (increased alcohol usage for example) and lack of motivation/fatigue are telltale signs of decreasing mental health, although they may often go overlooked by the individual. Being able to recognise signs such as these early on and take steps to prioritise wellbeing is the way forward on managing mental health better within the industry.

Mates in Mind are a charity dedicated to working against the mental health struggles that plague the construction and many other adjacent industries, helping employers to dispel the silence that mental health conditions thrive on. Most recently Mates in Mind launched their campaign in tandem with Stress Awareness Month April 2024, offering support to those suffering from work-related stress and sharing stories of those who have been able to make lasting positive change to their mental health. This kind of dedicated support is exactly the kind of initiative that will help to create a lasting positive impact on the industry, and shows the steps being taken to help those in need.