In the January GGP column, Faisal Hussain, Chief Executive of the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS) talks about the organisation’s plans to build on the Mental Health campaign it started a year ago with industry-specific resources
It was this time last year that I first wrote about the subject of mental health in our industry, hoping to raise awareness of what was then, a topic most likely not to be discussed openly. Whilst I am delighted to see that the conversation has opened up and there’s lots of evidence of the industry now talking about the issue with growing support from specialist organisations and charities, there is still more we can do.
My quest to bring the mental health conversation out in the open was sparked from my experience of a DGCOS member who was struggling, which I shared in this column. That conversation sparked the Fenestration Industry Mental Health Survey. The results were disturbing and emotional, casting light on an issue that has been proven to be starker than anyone could have anticipated: 89.5% of respondents had seen an increase in their workload since the pandemic; 76.3% were experiencing burnout from their workload; 86.8% believed there isn’t enough awareness about mental health and sadly, 60.5% believed there is a mental health crisis in the glazing industry. The results put simply showed we are an industry on the edge, feeling under pressure and at cracking point because of the relentless work. Whilst we are past the pressures of the pandemic, we now have huge fears in the face of the cost-of-living crisis and recession.
Bleak picture for mental health in construction
The latest ONS statistics are bleak too, showing a rise in the devastating loss through suicide in the construction sector from 483 deaths in 2021 to 507 people in 2022, 503 of whom were male. Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK driven by society’s expectations and the traditional gender roles where men are less likely to discuss or seek help for their mental health problems. This may sound stereotypical but it’s a fact. It used to be said that suicides within construction are three times that of the national industry average. In fact, the latest data indicate that workers in construction are now nearly four times more likely to take their own lives compared to other sectors.
But the issue is about so much more than column inches and statistics. It’s about real people’s lives.
Campaigning for better mental health
Blue Monday which is on the 16th January this year, is the day claimed to be the time when people feel most down every year. Whether you think it’s a marketing gimmick or not, these awareness days/ social media campaigns are about raising awareness about an issue that has such damaging potential for individuals, their families, livelihoods.
Last year, Blue Monday very recently followed the alarming conversation I had with an installer and we kick-started our better mental health campaign with a donation to MIND of £1 for every installation that was registered on our online portal that day.
Resources for better mental health
This year, our better mental health mission continues. We want to continue to raise awareness of the struggles everyday people are facing and remove the stigma from having a conversation about them. DGCOS plans to take action to develop some real tools that will help people and businesses in this sector. We are looking to partner with different mental health charities that specialise in construction: Band of Builders, Lighthouse & Mates in Mind. Each charity offers specialist support, and our aim is to work with each one to develop a bespoke offering of resources to people and businesses in our sector to have better tools in place to support better mental health. We accept this won’t happen overnight but a collective and collaborative strategy, sometimes requiring courage and a willingness to confront uncomfortable issues is definitely a step in the right direction.
The three charities each have their own specialism and value that we think can best help us continue to encourage and build conversations with practical support. If we help just one person in our industry? Then, it’s worth it.
If you are reading this and struggling now, regardless of whether you’re a DGCOS member or not, we urge you to reach out to one of the three charities we have mentioned. Lighthouse, for example, offer free 24/7 confidential support. Text HARDHAT to 85258 to access.