Supporting Mental Health in the UK Construction Industry

Date: 25 Mar 2024

The construction industry, vital to the UK's infrastructure and economic growth, is also a sector where mental health concerns loom large, especially among its predominantly male workforce. 

With the physical demands of the job often taking centre stage, the mental well-being of construction workers can sometimes be overlooked. However, organisations like Mates In Mind are shining a light on this crucial issue, emphasising the importance of mental health support for those in the construction industry.


Mental Health in Construction

A recent Mates In Mind report on mental health in the construction industry has highlighted a number of alarming statistics that show the urgent need for mental health awareness and support in the construction sector. For instance, construction workers are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing mental health issues, with the pressures of the job, long hours, and often precarious employment conditions contributing to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Notably, the industry sees a high incidence of suicide, particularly among male workers, who represent the majority of the workforce. This tragic statistic underscores the critical need for open conversations about mental health, as well as access to support services and resources within the sector.


Understanding the Challenges

Several factors contribute to the mental health crisis in construction, including:

•    Stigma: There's a pervasive stigma around discussing mental health, particularly among men, who may feel pressured to adhere to outdated notions of masculinity that equate emotional expression with weakness.

•    Isolation: Many construction projects are located away from home, leading to feelings of isolation and disconnection from social support networks.

•    Physical strain and job insecurity: The physically demanding nature of construction work, combined with job insecurity, can exacerbate stress levels and contribute to mental health declines.


Steps Towards Improvement

Addressing mental health in the construction industry requires a multi-faceted approach, focusing on both prevention and support. Here are some actionable tips for employers and individuals within the sector:

•    Foster an Open Environment: Encourage open discussions about mental health to break down the stigma. Leaders and managers should lead by example, sharing their own experiences and showing vulnerability.

•    Provide Training: Invest in mental health first aid training and awareness programs to equip workers and management with the tools to recognise and respond to signs of mental distress among their colleagues.

•    Access to Support Services: Ensure that all employees have easy access to mental health support services, whether through in-house resources or external partnerships with organisations like Mates In Mind.

•    Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage practices that promote a healthy work-life balance, recognising the importance of rest and recovery to overall well-being.

•    Regular Check-Ins: Implement regular check-ins with employees, offering a safe space to discuss any concerns, whether work-related or personal.


Innovative Mental Health Initiatives: A Case Study of Balfour Beatty's Project Wellbeing

Recognising the unique challenges faced by its workforce, Balfour Beatty, a leading construction company, implemented "Project Wellbeing" during phase two of their Port Ann-Crossaig project in the Scottish Highlands. This initiative offers valuable insights into how construction companies can support their employees' mental health and well-being, setting a benchmark for the industry.

The Challenge of Remote Work Environments

The Port Ann-Crossaig project highlighted several challenges common in construction, especially in remote or challenging environments like the Scottish Highlands. Workers often found themselves separated from their families and communities, dealing with the harsh weather conditions and terrain while executing their tasks. This isolation, compounded by the strenuous nature of their work, made it imperative to find ways to support their well-being effectively.

Implementing Project Wellbeing

Balfour Beatty's approach with Project Wellbeing was multifaceted, focusing on boosting social connections, physical activity, and relaxation to combat loneliness and promote a healthy work-life balance. Recognising the difficulty in disseminating information across a dispersed team, the project utilised a community page accessible via a QR code in all welfare vans and cabins. This innovation ensured that every team member had the opportunity to participate and stay informed.

The activities organised were diverse and tailored to cater to different interests, encouraging socialization and physical wellness. These included:

•    Surfing and Fishing: Offering an escape into nature, these activities provided a serene environment for relaxation and reflection, away from the pressures of work.

•    Go-Karting and Hiking: These more active pursuits helped in building team camaraderie while allowing workers to engage in physical exercise, which is known to boost mental health.

•    Weekly Yoga Sessions: Perhaps the most popular activity, yoga offered a dual benefit of physical exercise and mental relaxation, helping to alleviate stress and enhance overall well-being.

Testimonials and Impact

The impact of Project Wellbeing has been overwhelmingly positive, with workers expressing a new level of enjoyment and satisfaction in their roles. Testimonials from the project underline the significant difference these initiatives have made, not just in terms of fun but in fostering a supportive, tight-knit community among workers often isolated by the nature of their work.

One worker highlighted the transformative experience of participating in surfing, noting it as a brilliant addition that they would advocate for in future projects. Another appreciated the opportunity to unwind through fishing in the evenings, showcasing the program's success in offering valuable relaxation and escape from the stresses of the job.

Balfour Beatty's Project Wellbeing serves as a compelling case study for the construction industry, illustrating the importance and feasibility of supporting mental health and well-being in even the most challenging work environments. By fostering a culture that values mental health, encourages active participation, and provides diverse opportunities for relaxation and socialization, construction companies can significantly enhance their workers' quality of life. This initiative not only benefits the individual workers but also contributes to a more cohesive, productive, and satisfied workforce.


The mental health of construction workers is an issue that demands immediate attention and action. By implementing supportive policies, fostering open communication, and providing access to mental health resources, the construction industry can create a safer, healthier work environment for all employees. The journey towards better mental health in construction is a collective one, requiring commitment from both employers and employees to build a culture of understanding, support, and resilience.

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