Funding to train mental health first aiders as CITB aims for construction “culture change”

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is investing £500,000 as part of a nationwide drive to train 156 construction workers as mental health first aid instructors as the industry looks to tackle difficulties faced by workers every day.

The CITB hopes the money and training will go a long way to improving the mental health and wellbeing of British construction industry workers. Data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last year found that of the 13,232 in-work suicides recorded, those within the skilled construction and building trades made up 13.2% between 2011 and 2015. This is despite construction accounting for little over 7% of the UK workforce.

Long working hours, pressures of completing projects and the potential to be working away from home for long periods of time and have led to worrying statistics becoming the norm. Male site workers in construction are reported to be three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male, according to the ONS.

The CITB training drive aims to make a start in turning around such statistics with the funding being awarded to Building Mental Health - an industry initiative including Lendlease, Mace, Multiplex, Morgan Sindall and Laing O’Rourke via CITB’s Flexible Fund.

Building Mental Health will work with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and use the funding to deliver 13 bespoke MHFA instructor courses for construction, with each course taking up to 12 candidates.

To become fully qualified, the instructors are then required to each deliver two MHFA courses that will in turn qualify on-site Mental Health First Aiders. The project’s objective is to have 156 construction MHFA instructors fully-trained and operating by September 2019, with a minimum of 2,500 on-site mental health first aiders to be trained by 2020.

The completed project will result in a minimum of 2,500 trained mental health first aiders in the British construction industry from small and micro sized firms to large employers although this will be just the start; it is estimated that an additional 40,000 mental health first aiders are needed to provide an adequate level of cover for the whole industry.

Geeta Nathan, head of economic analysis at CITB, said: “The mental health and wellbeing of construction workers is one of the biggest issues our industry is currently facing. In 2016/17, the sector lost 400,000 working days due to stress, anxiety or depression – the equivalent of losing 1,600 full time workers each year. Given the stigma this subject faces, it’s so important that we lead the way in shaping a culture change.”

Brian Van Campenhout, head of EHS at Lendlease added: “Having adopted the Building Mental Health Charter, Lendlease is working collaboratively across the whole of the Construction industry to eradicate the stigma and impact associated with poor mental health that continues to blight many peoples’ lives.  It’s great news that Building Mental Health now has the CITB and Lighthouse as key industry partners supporting the framework.  It is vitally important that, collectively we all do something to improve the mental health and wellbeing of everyone that works in this great industry.  Let’s shoulder this moral responsibility and start making a difference today.”

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