With suicide rates among construction workers at 3.7 times the national average*, a Yorkshire electrical engineering firm has made a commitment to protecting the mental wellbeing of its employees.

Smith Brothers Contracting Ltd is now an official Supporter of Mates in Mind (MinM) – a leading UK charity that enables organisations to improve their workforces’ mental health.

The scheme – which is specific to the construction industry – provides a range of services, support and options, providing employers with the skills, clarity and confidence necessary to raise awareness, improve understanding and address the stigma that surrounds mental health.

Darrell Johnson, SHEQ manager at Smith Brothers Contracting Ltd said: “When we think of ‘health and safety’, we shouldn’t automatically default to high-vis and hard hats. It’s vital that firms go beyond physical health and encompass psychological fitness too.

“By speaking openly about mental health in a shared forum, organisations can slowly break down any stigma that still surrounds the notion of discussing thoughts and feelings out loud. Smith Brothers is committed to providing a positive working environment and appropriate support for our colleagues, in order to have a positive effect on our staff’s emotional wellbeing.”

James Rudoni, managing director at Mates in Mind added: “Research shows that those working within construction-related industries often suffer from poor mental health more than employees in other sectors. This could be due to the fact that in general men often  find it harder to open up due to the stigma around mental health, that those within the industry can work irregular shift patterns, often in testing conditions, and also spend a lot of time away from home and their families.”

“Historically, the construction environment hasn’t been one that encouraged people to seek help. Those within the industry do not necessarily know how to recognise poor mental health in themselves or others around them, and also might not know where to turn if someone on site is suffering.

That is why Mates in Mind is working with key industry partners, like Smith Brothers, to tackle mental ill-health across the industry. We are delighted that Smith Brothers has joined our community of Supporters and made a commitment to ensure they challenge the norm in their own organisation and support colleagues throughout their tenure.”

As part of the scheme, Smith Brothers’ regular ‘toolbox talks’ – which cover timely elements of SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environment and Quality) – will position workplace wellbeing and mental health front-and-centre during April’s discussions.

The firm has also produced a mental health policy, while other incentives include an organisational wellbeing assessment, dedicated awareness course, free professional support services for the team, as well as ongoing upskilling and training of mental health first aiders.