A mobile app named Construction Industry Helpline has been launched by a UK charity on Apple’s App Store and the Android-compatible Google Play to raise awareness about and guide construction engineers through questions about mental health.
Construction Industry Solutions (Coins), a UK-headquartered company with a Middle East office in Dubai, collaborated with British charity Lighthouse Club to launch the mental health app. In an interview published on Coins’ website, Bill Hill, chief executive officer of Lighthouse Club, said that while the UK construction industry is working to create a healthier workplace, “finding the right support isn’t always easy”.
He continued: “Statistics show that [...] stress, anxiety, and depression account for a fifth of all work-related illness. This needs to stop.
“We have a long way to go before the culture in construction removes the stigma about talking about mental health and well-being. For some, talking comes easy, but for others, just […] acknowledging that they need some kind of help can be the most difficult step. We need to make it as easy for someone to talk about mental health as it is to talk about a physical condition. That’s why we have developed the Construction Industry Helpline app that can be downloaded free by anyone in the industry.”
Hill told Coins that the app provides information, advice, and guidance about how to relieve the long-term effects of stress, anxiety, or depression, as well as support in areas such as debt management, legal advice, and emergency financial aid. The app offers complete confidentiality and does not require personal contact information.
Mental health, whilst a rarely discussed topic in global workplaces, is becoming a conversation point in the regional construction sector. Mental Health America and its global affiliates observe May as Mental Health Month each year. Speaking to Construction Week in May 2018, human resource (HR) and C-level professionals from the GCC’s construction sector called for increased focus on mental health in the industry.
Industry experts that spoke to Construction Week said stress-related burnouts are common in the fast-paced, high-pressure sector. Marcus Taylor, managing partner at Taylor Sterling, a construction-focused recruitment agency in the Middle East, said the sector “has always been a roller-coaster” ride for its people.
“The stress of market fluctuations, and in many cases, ground-breaking projects bound by stringent time scales, has pushed many people to the breaking point,” he told Construction Week.
“I have witnessed many burnouts on [major aviation] projects. Many people are forced to work seven days a week and cancel holidays, just to push their project across the line. That said, those involved in most cases have been proud to have accomplish the goals.”
Experts also highlighted the impact of traditional norms and mores on professionals working in the male-dominated construction industry. Aaron Chehab, chief commercial officer at KBW Investments, was one of the professionals that in May 2018 explained how the construction industry’s male-dominated environment might, in some cases, be a factor contributing to work-related stress.
“As a deadline-oriented sector with significant budgetary considerations and often, limited resources, mid- to senior-level construction professionals are consistently dealing with a great deal of onsite and offsite pressures” Chehab told Construction Week.
“Long hours of work, coupled with the aggressive, male-dominated environment, can have an impact on individuals, causing excessive and needless stress leading to anxiety. Considering the commercial, safety, and programming pressures exerted on a daily basis, companies operating in the construction industry definitely need to take all of this into consideration.”
Taylor said that the same, male-dominated perspective may also hinder communication regarding mental health concerns, which, in some organisations, may not be adequately understood or empathised with.
“Construction still has a slightly masculine outlook, [and it] heavily involves teams achieving success,” Taylor explained.
“With that comes the pressure not to be the ‘weakest link’. To include psychological considerations into this environment – whether related to work or home – is not often considered or tolerated. Most of the time, [problems are] kept a secret by the individual.”