Building Mental Health Toolbox Talk

This blog can be delivered to your staff as a Toolbox Talk. If you require a specific Toolbox Talk for your workplace, please feel free to get in touch.

Reason: Raising Awareness of the Mental Health Crisis in the Construction Industry to have an honest and open conversation in a safe environment: to enable recognition of the signs in yourself, colleagues, friends and family: signposting people towards support, help and relevant information: a chance to learn about potential opportunities to contribute, support, volunteer and/or do something to make a difference.

Outline: This talk covers: the causes of mental health challenges, how to recognise the signs of deteriorating mental health in others and ourselves, as well as evaluating the wider issues involved and what we can do to maintain our well-being in a proactive way.

Some Facts:

Every year:
• 2.4 million personnel-days are lost through injury or illness in the industry.
• Stress, depression or anxiety account for a fifth of all work-related illness (that’s just the ones that are reported; it is estimated to be higher)
• On average, every day in the UK, two construction workers take their own life: shockingly, construction is the number 1

The Law

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure the wellbeing of employees through the implementation of safe systems of work, and the provision of training and relevant information

The Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 gives employees the right to challenge discrimination. Mental illness is defined as a disability under these acts. Workers can ask for adjustments or amendments to their jobs or workplace, and are protected from discrimination, harassment and bullying.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires UK employers to properly assess the safety risks employees are exposed to while working. This extends to assessment of stress-related health and a need to mitigate any risks identified.

Sources of stress

Ask attendees the following three questions before following on the table below.

What things can be the causes of stress and pressure:
• At work?
• Outside of work?
• How does it make you feel?











What might be signs of distress?

If you have been working with somebody for a while, the biggest sign is some sort of change. Changes could be:

• Timekeeping
• Safety/Risk Taking
• Alcohol and/or drug misuse
• Lack of co-operation
• Being tired all the time
• Unexplained aches and pains
• Quiet & withdrawn
• Extremes of emotion

Mental Health in Construction

Construction has many contributing ‘risk factors’ in the working environment that can adversely affect mental wellbeing.

With over 50% of the workforce being either self-employed, on zero hour contracts or employed as agency workers there is a lot of job uncertainty and financial worries.

Much of the work is project related involving working away from home with no family network.

Over 80% of the workforce in construction is also male. So without undue stereotyping, the perception of unhelpful stoic beliefs and stigma can make it difficult to talk about our mental state: collectively these factors can be overwhelming.

Let’s talk about STIGMA

Why don’t we talk about mental health? The biggest problem is stigma.

Anyone with mental health issues immediately get labelled….‘Crazy’, ‘Attention Seeker’, ‘Psycho’ or ‘Lunatic’. This stigma is further reinforced by the media in films, newspapers, twitter feeds and Facebook.

In our culture, perception is often that:

• People with mental health problems are violent
• People challenged by mental health issues are weak
• People experiencing difficulties with their mental health cannot work
• People suffering with their mental health do not recover
• Mental health problems are self-inflicted

Ask yourself honestly, what do you feel when somebody is showing mental ill health?

What can you do to help?

It is always good to check in with people. It can help if you set aside 10 minutes to have a chat, find a space where you know you can have a conversation without being interrupted.

If you have made a mistake and the person is fine, the worst that can happen is that the person thinks you are a nice person and you have noticed how they feel.

Mental health can seem like a daunting topic to have a conversation about; however, we have all had conversations with colleagues about bereavement, bad breakups and other life events. We utilise the same tools for those topics with mental health, these are such things as:

• Find a good place to talk constructively, some people call this a ‘safe space’
• Listen
• Maintain eye contact, unless the person is uncomfortable.
• Adopt an open and relaxed posture
• Reassure them
• Just be there
• Signpost them to help
• Encourage them to seek support

If a person is very upset at the end of a conversation you might want to encourage them to call a close friend or doctor. If you feel that the conversation is getting too difficult for you to deal with, you could pass it on to a manager or use a helpline for confidential advice and support.

By taking about mental health, you can reduce the stigma and possibly even save a life.

What can we do to look after our own mental health?

We can all learn from the past, we can all plan for the future, but the only place we actually exist is in the here and now, So:

• stay connected to the present, talk, listen and feel connected
• give your time, your presence, your words to the people that are important to you
• look up sometimes and just take joy in your surroundings
• give new things a try
• be active: make time for the things you enjoy that improve your mood

Remember the only person you have to live with all of your life is yourself: make sure you enjoy being you!


• We all have mental health
• Mental health problems are common, even more in construction than in other industries and they can affect anyone at any time
• Stigma stops us talking so let’s get the conversation going
• It takes courage to talk about how you really feel
• Look after you own mental health and look out for others

  1. Inform attendees what support the company has for those struggling with their mental health
  2. Inform attendees who/where they can go to if they are struggling (internal and external)

  1. What do you do if you are suffering with your mental health?
  2. What do you do if you think a work colleague is suffering with their mental health?

If you have any questions about the contents of this Toolbox Talk, do not hesitate to contact us – our team would be happy to help you with any queries. Find more Toolbox Talks here.