Three in ten of the texts to a new mental health helpline service set up specifically for the UK construction industry are cries for help from tradespeople who are thinking about ending their own lives.
The text service – which was set up in a bid to tackle the mental health crisis in the construction industry – is seeing that texts about suicide have accounted for 30.4% of the messages to the Big Brew’s helpline (text BOB to 85258) since the service was launched this time last year.
The figures come at a time when the suicide rate amongst construction workers has risen for the fifth year in a row* and is more than three times that of other careers or professions.
Texts about suicide are nearly double the number seeking help for depression (16.2%). Stress/anxiety (15.4%), relationship issues (14.2%) and isolation (14%) were the other main reasons why construction workers and tradespeople reached out for help.
These are the headline results from the text service run by the award-winning charity Band of Builders, which organises the Big Brew, an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness of the mental health crisis in the construction industry by encouraging tradespeople to open up about their mental health over a cuppa.
Data from the text service also shows that 44.2% of builders and contractors using the service did so during the working day – and 20.3% texted between midnight and 2am.
It also shows that Fridays are the busiest day of the week for service usage – with a share of 22.4% – and the overall total is 80.6% for the working week.
As the organisers of the Big Brew geared up for this year’s campaign – which was timed to coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10th October – they reflected on the data from usage of the service, which highlights the scale of the mental health crisis in the construction industry.
Big Brew spokesperson Gavin Crane said that addressing mental health challenges is a moral imperative for the construction industry.
“The construction industry is known for its demanding and often high-pressure work environment,” said Gavin. “Unfortunately, these conditions can contribute to elevated stress levels, anxiety and other mental health issues among tradespeople. It is crucial that we recognise and address these challenges to create a healthier and more supportive industry culture.
“We are committed to raising awareness about mental health in construction and providing resources to support tradespeople in need – and the Big Brew is a way of creating safe spaces for open conversations, reducing stigma and promoting mental wellbeing.”
The builder’s merchant sector is firmly behind the campaign, with the likes of Jewson hosting events at its depots and suppliers such as DEWALT and Talasey, the UK’s leading independent supplier of landscaping solutions, hosting events that are based on the charity coffee morning format, where staff, customers and visitors to a business are encouraged to gather together and talk about the issue of mental health over tea, biscuits and cake.
The first Big Brew was launched in October 2021 by the construction charity Band of Builders as a way of raising awareness of the mental health crisis in construction. Not only did the charity smash its targets with nearly 200 events being held but it also raised enough funds to provide an online wellbeing service that members of the UK construction industry and their immediate families can access, as well as the text service.
The campaign continues to gather momentum, with the cause coming to national attention after a Big Brew event at Jewson in Woking was the focal point for a film by DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles – which was screened on the popular BBC One programme The One Show during the summer. At the Big Brew, Nick talked to tradespeople about the mental health crisis in the construction industry and explored the reasons why the suicide rate in the sector is far higher than in other professions.
Gavin added: “The figures from our text service are just the tip of the iceberg but do provide a window into just how big the mental health crisis is in the UK construction industry – which is why we are urging more people to get involved with the Big Brew, as it’s a great way to encourage community engagement and improve awareness of both mental health issues and ways to seek help for members of the UK construction industry.”
There’s still time to register interest in hosting a Big Brew event at https://bandofbuilders.org, and you can join the conversation online by using the hashtag #GiveYourselfABreak.
*Figures from the team at Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) Centre – in conjunction with the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity – found that the suicide rate for construction occupations in 2021 rose to 33.82 per 100,000. This figure has risen steadily from 25.52 per 100,000 in 2015 when the figures were first compiled.