BE THINKING...

It’s not just Monday, or January.

4th February 2021 | Lee Salvidge, Creative Director at Blue Edge

At Blue Edge, we’d like to think we are a company who look out for people. We look after, and out for, our internal team and external network of expert bidders.

We know that finding, then retaining the best people in the business is not straight-forward. But it’s a vital part of why our clients trust us with their most important work. Being part of a team working with our clients on the most high profile bidding opportunities in the world, is often a highly pressured environment.

Our reflection

Try as we do, it’s not always possible to understand exactly how hard it can be, when delivering bids right at the sharp end of billions of Pounds and Euros worth of new business.

We always look out for our teams, asking the questions around how they are doing, how they are feeling. We know how isolated and stretched our people can become, so we try to keep the dialogue open and honest.

It takes a certain sort of person to want to live in the world of bidding.

Our thought

Now, when we look out to our clients and watch them delivering the UK’s largest projects, across infrastructure, energy, civils and many other sectors, we know that it’s often a very challenging world to live in.

Even before the uncertainty that 2020 and Coronavirus brought with it, working in construction meant you had an unusually high risk of death. In fact, it’s more deadly than any other profession. However, it’s not being crushed by heavy machinery, falls, or electrocution that is to blame. It’s suicide.

It’s this act, which very few are prepared to talk about and fewer still take action over, which claims lives daily in construction. Unless we start a conversation with a vulnerable person, or with a manager, or even the CEO, nothing will change this sad statistic.

Starting to talk about this issue is the biggest barrier to bringing down these numbers. However, as it’s men who are far more likely to take their own lives than women, an industry so male dominated is a tough lot to get talking. They’re more likely to be living in temporary accommodation, away from friends and family for extended periods of time. They are also far more likely to have further compounding issues such as alcohol or drug dependency. Substance abuse and suicide go hand-in-hand.

Our expert voice

Melanie Pritchard, a Mental Health and Wellbeing Trainer at Melanie Pritchard Success Coaching, says, "while statistics suggest that women in the UK are twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than men, men self-medicate with alcohol and perceive opening up to be a sign of weakness. In reality, 75% of suicides are male versus 25% being female, with 85 men taking their own lives every week in the UK. That was pre-pandemic."

Covid19 has put mental health on everyone’s agenda, whether home schooling parent, newly redundant worker, bereaved relative or furloughed employee. With male construction workers being three times more likely to attempt suicide than the average UK male, they are a particularly vulnerable category. Working away from home, low pay, shift work and a male dominated culture significantly heighten stress levels. So while physical health and safety is rightly prioritised in construction, the human mind can be the most dangerous thing on any building site. We need to do something about this.

The good news is, though suicide is the worst extreme, more often than not, it’s not about wanting to die - it’s the result of a build-up of common mental health issues, like anxiety and depression which intensify when they go unsaid. In other words, suicide is preventable.

Keeping open dialogue around stress and mental health is the bridge between invisible struggle and survival, between missing the signs and spotting them in time. With men regularly admitting they perceive showing emotion be a sign of weakness, we urgently need to change the dialogue. This is why starting the conversation around wellbeing is so important – it can literally save lives.

Mental health first aid training provides this toolkit, helping colleagues spot the difference between stress and mental illness, how to support colleagues and how to refer people to professional help. Normalising conversations around stress, proactively taking an interest in one another’s lives, spotting changes in behaviour and learning how to support someone who doesn’t want to open up, is critical in reducing mental health struggles. Though we often hear the tragic words: ‘There were no signs’, all too often there are, if you know how to spot them.

Our goal

Being aware is the first vital step in caring for what happens to people. However, more increasingly, demonstrating preventative action is required to live up to the standards we set ourselves here at Blue Edge and ones that the whole industry is being mandated to achieve. From the Social Value Act and B-Corp certification, there are benchmarks being set in place that we plan to uphold and aspire to achieve.

Together we can challenge the expected, create possible from impossible and make a bid for a better future.

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