Scaffolding specialist, Millcroft, has completed the first phase of a mental health training programme that will see all of the company’s employees trained to recognise signs of mental ill health and equip them to access help if they need it.
Developed specifically for the company by Millcroft’s Health & Safety Manager, Mike Wright, the mental health training is part of a full programme of personnel development at Millcroft, a company with a dedicated training facility and a retained staff of scaffolding design engineers and scaffolders. It aims to leverage the open and inclusive culture at Millcroft to support staff in talking about any mental health concerns they may have and to seek help for themselves or their colleagues.
Mike Wright explains: “Figures from Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity indicate that two construction workers take their own lives every day in the UK and a fifth of work-related illness in the sector is caused by stress, depression and anxiety. Those figures highlight that this is an area that companies in the sector need to address.
“We want to ensure we support good mental health across the whole Millcroft team, in the same way that we apply high standards to their physical safety and wellbeing. A huge part of that commitment is educating our personnel to spot the signs of mental health, banishing stigma and putting a framework in place so that they can find the right help if they need it.”
The first mental health training session took place with 12 site personnel from the Millcroft team, eight of whom knew someone personally that had been affected by suicide. Mike continues: “It’s pretty compelling when you go round the room like that to see just how many people are affected. From that simple sharing exercise, our initial cohort of scaffolders were much more willing to open up and engage with the training.”
The training course is designed to help Millcroft staff recognise the difference between good mental health and poor mental, dispel some of the myths and assumptions on the topic and highlight the ways in which different people cope with stress and challenging life events differently.
The senior management team at Millcroft has also now been trained, completing the first phase of the programme by equipping them to be ‘Mental Health Champions’ within the company. This means that they are both trained to notice signs of poor mental health in the team and to support members of staff by signposting them to professional help where required.
The next phase will be to deliver a regular programme of toolbox talks at Millcroft sites as part of routine health & safety training.
Billy Jones, Director of Millcroft adds: “We work in a very male-dominated sector where, traditionally, there’s been an expectation that you should be able to deal with whatever life throws at you. As a result, there’s been a culture in the construction industry of bottling things up or self-medicating with alcohol, which can make some mental health conditions much worse and has other safety implications for site workers.
“Our approach is to be open and honest about how prevalent mental ill health is in the sector and how it needs to be addressed in the same way as physical health. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t just live with it, you’d seek treatment from someone who can make it better - we want our team to apply the same philosophy to their mental health. I have learned a lot from the course and it’s now embedded in our health & safety training.”