Promoting Mental Health Awareness: A Gruelling 100km Trek for Construction's Well-being

We talk about how Team SM5 undertook a gruelling 100km walk to raise money and awareness for Mental Health in the Construction Industry with Mates in Mind

Promoting Mental Health Awareness: A Gruelling 100km Trek for Construction's Well-being

Mental health is a vital aspect of our overall well-being, yet it remains a topic often overlooked and stigmatized. However, with initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Week, and charities such as Mates in Mind we are slowly breaking down barriers and encouraging open conversations about mental health in all sectors.  In fact, the Mates in Mind website quotes “stress, anxiety, and depression account for one-fifth of work-related illnesses, resulting in 70 million days off sick per year at an estimated annual cost of £70bn-£100bn according to the National Building Specification”.  It’s estimated that poor mental health costs the UK £118bn annually. 

In an inspiring act of solidarity, Team SM5 recently embarked on a challenging 100km trek along the Dorset Jurassic coastline, not only to raise funds for Mates in Mind but also to shed light on the importance of mental well-being in the construction industry overall.

The State of Mental Health in Construction

The construction industry, renowned for its demanding physical labour, often neglects the mental well-being of its workers. The strenuous work environment, long hours, and high-pressure deadlines can take a toll on the mental health of those involved. Surveys have revealed that construction workers face higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and even suicide compared to workers in other industries. The silent struggle faced by many construction workers demands attention and concerted efforts towards supporting their mental well-being.

Mental Health Awareness Week: Shining a Light on Construction's Challenges

Mental Health Awareness Week serves as a crucial platform to raise awareness and promote understanding of mental health issues across the UK as a whole. By actively participating in this week-long event, Team SM5 are bringing attention to the mental health challenges faced within their industry. Our aim is not only to raise funds for a worthy cause but also to encourage conversations and dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health in construction.

Walking the Jurassic Coastline: A Physical and Mental Challenge

Walking 100km along the Jurassic coastline is no small feat. The physical demands of such a trek required exceptional stamina, endurance, and resilience. However, the team's endeavour was not solely about the physical aspect. It symbolized the mental struggles faced by construction workers every day, highlighting the importance of providing support, resources, and a safe space for them to discuss their mental well-being.

Impact on the Body and Mind

Undertaking such a physically demanding challenge has both short-term and long-term effects on the body. Walking long distances can result in fatigue, blisters, muscle soreness, joint pain, and even dehydration if proper precautions are not taken. The mental toll is equally significant. Enduring such a gruelling physical feat tests one's mental fortitude, resilience, and determination. The team's commitment to completing the 100km trek despite injury, exhaustion, blisters aplenty and even a surgically removed toenail mirrors the endurance required to tackle mental health challenges effectively.

Supporting Mental Health in the Construction Industry

The journey undertaken by Team SM5 workers not only highlighted the challenges faced by the industry but also showcased the importance of providing support and resources for mental health. Here are a few steps that can be taken to improve mental health in the construction sector:

  1. Promote Mental Health Education: Increase awareness about mental health issues through training sessions and workshops, equipping both workers and supervisors with the knowledge and tools to identify signs of mental distress.
  2. Foster a Supportive Environment: Encourage an open and inclusive culture that allows workers to discuss their mental health concerns without fear of stigma or reprisal. This can be achieved by implementing confidential counselling services, mental health helplines, and employee assistance programs or with partnering with charities such as Mates in Mind who are doing amazing things in Mental Health education across the UK Construction industry.
  3. Promote Work-Life Balance: Some reports show that construction workers can undertake up to 60 hour weeks on a regular basis.  Encourage a healthy work-life balance by implementing reasonable working hours, flexible scheduling, and opportunities for downtime. Encouraging self-care and stress management techniques can help prevent burnout.
  4. Train Managers and Supervisors: Provide training to managers and supervisors on recognizing signs of mental distress, effective communication, and supporting employees who may be struggling with their mental health.  Again Mates in Mind have so many useful resources and training courses available. 

The members of the team  who embarked on this physically and mentally challenging 100km trek set a commendable example of raising awareness for mental health in the construction industry. Their journey emphasized the need for support, understanding, and open conversations about mental well-being in a physically demanding sector. By promoting mental health education, fostering a supportive environment, promoting work-life balance, and training managers and supervisors, we can work towards improving mental health within the construction industry. Together, let us continue to break the silence, challenge the stigma, and prioritize mental well-being for all.

 Melinda Smith
 16th May 2023
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