Over 6,200 suicides were registered in the UK in 2020 alone. On average, two construction workers take their own lives every working day. It is vital we open up this conversation, and Mates in Mind is calling on companies to start the conversation about mental health with their employees.

Mates in Mind believe breaking the silence and stigma surrounding mental ill-health is a crucial step toward providing a safe and healthy workplace environment, which can play a vital role in suicide prevention.

“It’s important to reiterate that early intervention is key regarding reducing the suicide rate within construction,” said Michelle Wiles, Patron of Mates in Mind. “It’s vital that individuals who are struggling with their mental health feel they are able to talk about how they are feeling and seek support before reaching that crisis point.

Research suggests that open and honest communication about mental ill-health supports steps towards suicide prevention. These important conversations have the power to increase awareness and understanding, remind people they are not alone and help break the stigma which can be a barrier for those seeking help. In light of this, Mates in Mind are encouraging workplaces across the UK to begin those vital discussions around mental health in an industry that is in need of change.

In 2019, my husband Chris suffered a mental health crisis brought on by severe stress, which developed at rapid speed and led to him taking his own life,” Michelle continued. “No one should go through what Chris went through, and no family should go through what we have. Chris never experienced any mental health illness previously so I can’t emphasise enough that if it can happen to him it can happen to anyone.

Education on how to spot the signs that someone could be suffering from poor mental health and having the confidence to “start the conversation” is vital to breaking down the barriers that prevent individuals from reaching out to the available support. Mates in Mind helps everyone to understand their roles and responsibilities when it comes to mental wellbeing and importantly, their approach enables individuals to understand how, when and where they can get support.

No one should be afraid to ask or tell someone that they are struggling. Please do know that you can talk and there is someone there that understands your struggles, reach out to a manager or someone you trust if you are struggling, you are not a failure, there is always a solution.”

Set up in 2016 by the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) with the support of the British Safety Council, Mates in Mind charity exists to improve the mental health and wellbeing of workplaces across the UK.

Opening up an honest conversation about mental health in the workplace continues to be the most immediate and effective starting point,” said Sarah Meek, Managing Director of Mates in Mind. “We cannot underestimate this important first step – helping to provide clear language, create general awareness and supporting people to recognise that everyone has mental health which can vary depending on circumstances and life stresses. We cannot underestimate the impact that work related stress can have too and how a discussion with the line manager can often help and is not to be seen as a weakness or failure to cope.

Our experience in supporting over 650 organisations has shown us that the work we do at Mates in Mind can make a meaningful difference to the wellbeing of an organisation and its people. This awareness day provides an opportunity for workplaces and sites across the country to get involved, look out for your mates, and start a conversation which could in turn save a life”.

To support these conversations, Mates in Mind has launched a Suicide Prevention Day hub for Employers, with resources and information to support these vital discussions for organisations and individuals alike.

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Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared. Having worked and volunteered for charities in the UK for over 10 years, Nisha is on a mission to highlight how amazing charities are.

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