Professional Builder talks to the Lighthouse Club about how it supports mental health in the construction industry.
Throughout its history, the Lighthouse Club has been a beacon of hope for construction workers who have fallen on hard times. Indeed, in 2018 alone the charity supplied a record £1.24 million to those in need – a 75 per cent increase on the previous year – but it’s not just about financial assistance.
Its helpline, a 24/7 service designed to support families in crisis, also witnessed unprecedented levels of engagement, while there are now over 350,000 helpline cards in circulation. It is here that industry personnel and their loved ones can seek guidance on subjects ranging from debt management to legal advice and mental well-being – and it is support for the latter that the charity is seeking to develop still further.
Communication is the most potent weapon in the battle to improve mental health, and with two construction workers taking their lives each and every day, and a fifth of all work related illnesses attributable to stress, depression and anxiety, it is clear that the need is pressing. Late last year, for instance – in a collaboration between the Lighthouse Club, construction software firm COINS and Building Mental Health – a free and confidential mental health app was launched. Designed to complement its existing helpline, the app guides users towards the next steps in seeking professional help, and proffers a means of intervention before a problem develops into a crisis.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in requests for our helpline packs, which includes details of the helpline, and the app,” explains Michelle Finnerty, marketing manager at the charity. “It’s about getting the message out there that support is available, and that is something that the industry has to engage with as a whole. The introduction of initiatives like mental health first aiders is a great leap forward, but there will be many who will prefer to present themselves to an external support service, rather than within their own organisation.”
The app is a preventative tool that provides a path on which those first tentative steps towards acknowledgement of the issue can be taken. Stress, anxiety, depression, anger and suicidal thoughts are inherently isolating conditions, and talking openly may take real courage, even on a confidential helpline, but an app can provide a bridge to that vital first contact. It can help to break down the barriers that the social stigmas around mental health have erected, and provide advice and support on a range of issues, including drug and alcohol dependency, financial issues and debt.
The charity is also an active supporter of the Building Mental Health programme website, a volunteer-led initiative, designed to promote best practice, and provide a freely available resource for all of the latest thinking on the subject of mental health. It’s full of useful advice on how to build a successful mental health culture in an organisation, and is designed to tackle that aforementioned stigma by starting the conversation.
“The most important thing for us is to get the information out to the guys on the ground,” says Michelle, “but at the same times we need to engage companies through the Building Mental Health website. They can then deliver the Toolbox Talks, and put in place the processes that will promote better mental health in their workplaces. All of that is then underpinned by our company supporters programme, which provides us with the means to support those in need.”
To access the helpline’s team of experts, call the Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956.
Of course to fulfil all of this vital roles the charity needs a predictable income, and that’s why the Lighthouse Club has launched its company supporters initiative and ‘Save a Life’ campaign, as CEO, Bill Hill explains: “We’re urging companies to pledge a regular annual donation to ensure the long term sustainability of our valuable charitable services. If you’re reading this and wondering how your company can make a difference, then here’s how to get involved.”