Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: The importance of compassion and collaboration
10 May, 2021
Today (10 May) marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, an important annual event hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. Given the taboo nature of mental health within the construction industry, this is a week we hold very close to our hearts. We strongly believe that cooperation across the industry is needed to break the stigma and our group people and culture director, Elizabeth-Hardwick Smith, is testament to this commitment through her position as trustee on the Pagabo Foundation.
The Pagabo Foundation – the charitable arm of national framework provider Pagabo – has a 12-member board of trustees who aim to raise the profile of mental health within construction and fund resources that make support and advice as readily available as possible to those working in the industry.
Elizabeth joined the Foundation’s board in 2020 and is constantly striving for new solutions to tackle mental health problems – building on her ten years of experience within the industry. Her concerns over the trials and tribulations that many unfortunately keep to themselves have been echoed by her fellow professionals and at Pick Everard we take every opportunity to raise much-needed awareness of these issues to tackle the stigma.
Elizabeth said: “We are really pleased to see that this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme is ‘nature’. Following the social exclusion that we have all experienced during the pandemic, the simple wonders nature provides have been a lifeline for many. Not only is appreciating nature something that we are encouraging throughout our daily lives, but it is also something we are pushing for throughout our industry.
“Built environment projects have the responsibility to protect the environment from a sustainability standpoint, as well as enhancing people’s wellbeing well into the future. Our design teams are particularly aware of these considerations and constantly garner feedback from end-users to create the most beneficial spaces possible.”
The mental health crisis within the construction sector is clear. The Office for National Statistics recorded 2,526 suicides in construction between 2011 and 2019, of which 99.4 per cent were men. In addition, the Chartered Institute of Building reported in 2020 that 26 per cent of construction workers had experienced suicidal thoughts and 97 per cent had experienced stress over the previous year. Unfortunately, it is hard to believe that the physical, emotional, and financial struggles presented by the pandemic will have improved these statistics.
Elizabeth continued: “The statistics speak for themselves. Mental health is something that affects everyone at some point. It is important we help encourage people to talk to one another and break the stigma around the topic, especially amongst men. At Pick Everard, one of our missions is to promote health, safety, and wellbeing as an essential part of what we do. This started at home but is reflected through our activities within the wider industry – such as my involvement with the Pagabo Foundation.”
Elizabeth has been fundamental in setting up Pick Everard’s employee focused welfare systems. This has included a HR intranet and wellbeing portal that allows members of staff to access external resources to help them to manage their emotions and welfare. As a business, we also encourage each other to write and share blog posts that offer advice and guidance to people struggling with their mental health – because even if this helps just one person in their time of need then it is worth every second of time spent.
We understand the need for every voice to be heard and this is reflected in the aims of the Pagabo Foundation – which brings together a range of industry leaders including, but not limited to, Morgan Sindall, Willmott Dixon, Faithful+Gould, and more.
Jason Stapley, managing director at Pagabo and lead for the Pagabo Foundation, said: “Bringing together the knowledge, expertise, and passion for positive change of our trustees is only the beginning of what the Pagabo Foundation aims to accomplish. We are all working towards change within the industry and the Foundation’s various initiatives – including raising awareness, fundraising and investing in supportive charities – are helping give people better access to the support they may need at any point during their career. By working together, we hope that no voice will go unheard.”