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Mental Health Week 2022 – Addressing loneliness

Construction companies have a unique set of working circumstances. Multiple project sites, largely comprising subcontractors with a mainly self-employed, workforce, who move from project to project and often work away from home for long periods of time. There is also a tendency for informal subgroups or subcultures to form based around things such as disciplines or ethnicity which again may leave others feeling like outsiders and isolated. You can read more on some of the mental health challenges we face as an industry in this previous blog.

The loneliness epidemic

Loneliness is affecting more and more people in the UK. It has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health during the pandemic.

Loneliness is not about the number of friends we have, the time we spend on our own or something that happens when we reach a certain age. Loneliness is the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the social connections we have and those that we need or want. That means it can be different for all of us.

Building connections and having strong bonds and relationships with others is an important aspect of our mental health and wellbeing as shown in this report by the Mental Health Foundation.

As an industry we often equate socialising with alcohol and heading to the pub to wind down at the end of a tough day. But there are alternative ways to socialise and still forge these bonds as a team, which aren’t dependent on alcohol, to help combat loneliness.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Mental Health Week runs from 9 -15 May 2022 and has the theme of loneliness. This annual UK wide event is a great time to start exploring how your company can help to raise awareness of loneliness and provide support for your employees.

Here are some ideas for things that your construction company could run during the week to raise awareness of mental health and address loneliness by bringing your teams together to connect and support each other as well as build deeper relationships.

And  if you are taking part don’t forget to download your branded Mental Health Week logos and resources to raise awareness and show your support.

1. Organise an activity to bring teams together during mental health week

From a bacon butty session, a tea morning, a stand-down where people are encouraged to chat or even your very own team quiz night or crazy golf. Why not set up your own group like the mens pie club or host your own Men Walk Talk event or build your own Men’s Shed as a way to get encourage employees to talk.

2. Research things to do in the local community and share them with your employees

From evening classes to sports clubs or gyms, the local library and adult education classes, community and church groups, there are a host of community-based activities that can help your employees create a sense of belonging and connection. Your local council website, Facebook groups or leisure centre pages are all great ways to find out what’s on and by signposting your employees where to go – you may be providing their first steps in reducing loneliness and isolation.

3. Organise a speaker to give a talk on mental health and loneliness 

The conversation around mental health and loneliness has become far more open and mainstream. Why not contact a local charity, celebrity or motivational speaker who can share their experiences of loneliness and the impact on their mental health.

4. Get a team together and take part in a challenge

What better way to bring your employees together than doing a challenge? You could raise funds for a charity or do a 5K run, a sponsored swim or take part in the Mental Health Foundation’s 80-mile May challenge. It doesn’t matter what you do but the benefits of exercise and being active can all play their part in combating loneliness.

5. Share mental health screening tools and signpost where employees can find more information. 

When it comes to loneliness, it can be hard to identify what is wrong or to know where to go to get help or support so do signpost your employees to these resources. The Mental Health Foundation has a host of materials, the charity Mind shares practical tips on how to manage loneliness and Mates in Mind has a wealth of resources specifically developed for the construction industry.

As a society and within the construction industry at large, we need to find better ways of identifying and then tackling the epidemic of loneliness. Building strong connections and relationships with people and the community that surrounds us, is a fundamental aspect of protecting our overall mental health and wellbeing.

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