RL Cares helping build a better approach to mental health

RL Cares helping build a better approach to mental health

Rugby League Cares’s expertise in delivering successful mental health initiatives was recognised when the charity took part in a recent round-table event featuring a panel of geotechnical engineers, industry body representatives and mental health advocates.

The event was hosted by Ground Engineering magazine and set out to discuss how the needs of employees in the industry sector can be better supported.

It also considered the impact of mental health issues on the wider construction industry and examined gaps in support for those needing help.

The panel members also discussed their personal reasons for advocating better mental health support and the actions business leaders should take to improve mental wellbeing among employees.

RL Cares was represented by our Health Project Manager Wendy Barr, who helps lead the charity’s mental fitness initiative Offload, which recently received funding from Movember to enable it to be delivered to men working in the construction industry.

“We’ve run the Offload programme with some construction companies already and the feedback was fantastic,” said Wendy. “There’s still a big hill to climb in tackling mental health in the construction industry and if we can play a small part in it, then that’s great.”

The round table discussion featured contributions from many areas of the engineering and construction industry, including Paul McCann of Dunelm Geotechnical & Environmental UK and overseas operations director and British Drilling Association chair.

McMann agreed that the industry has increased its awareness of mental health issues.

But he believes it still has a long way to go to provide meaningful mental health support to staff. Often, he says, the only type of permanent support offered to employees on construction sites is a phone number pinned to a noticeboard or handed out in a leaflet.

“That would be one of the last things that I would feel that I could do – to pick up that phone on a site and identify myself,” he reflected.

Mott MacDonald technical director of engineering geology, Jim Gelder has suffered from depression for a number of years. He said that real support was about “finding opportunities to engage with people.”

Gelder suggested one way of opening a conversation about mental health with employees could be to include questions that invite employees to share their feelings during a short presentation to the workforce. This could take place during the morning toolbox talk.

“If you think about how safety has come on in the last 30 years, the toolbox talk is integral to that because it’s your chance as management to really push the messages that you want to push through to the workforce.

“So, you could just have one line in the toolbox talk that says, how’s the weather in your head today?”

Concept Engineering Consultants business development and process manager Dave Cage, who has also struggled with poor mental health, noted that tools such as toolbox talks, phone numbers and mental health first aiders are important.

However, he said that “the only thing that turns those from being just a tick box exercise that some companies do to something meaningful is changing the culture”.

“It’s a much bigger challenge to actually improve the culture of a company rather than to just put the tools in place.

“And that’s where we need to be investing most of our time,” he added.

To read more about the conversations on mental health in construction and drilling at the Ground Engineering round table event click here

If you are involved in a construction company and would like to know more about how Offload can help your colleagues benefit become and stay mentally fit, please contact our Partnerships Manager Nav Uppal – nav.uppal@rlcares.org.uk