Mental health is an area that is not generally discussed in the construction industry, with macho stereotypes and a general acceptance that mental health issues should be kept to oneself. London Bridge Station Redevelopment wanted to break down these barriers and encourage people to talk about mental health in the workplace and to remove the stigma surrounding it.
The Build Up: Know your numbers
In the month preceding the SHE Impact Day the London Bridge team planned a focus on health and wellbeing, with different areas being the focused on each week. The final week focused on mental health awareness to tie in with the subject for the main event. Through the weeks the workforce was encouraged to ‘know your numbers’ and understand how weight, blood pressure and cholesterol can affect health and wellbeing.
Visits to the site nurse allowed them to pinpoint themselves on the various charts, which then equipped them with the information they need to plan and measure progress. There were also sessions to educate on the impact of drug and alcohol abuse delivered by subject experts. Finally, a focus on diet and nutrition was facilitated by a visiting nutritionist offering drop in sessions for the team wanting to understand more about how modifying eating habits may have a positive impact.
The Event: Addressing mental health
The SHE Impact Day was held in the final week of the campaign and had a focus on mental health awareness and fatigue. It was supported by visiting leaders from Costain Ltd, who spent the day with the workforce and joined in with the various activities that had been arranged. Further support was given by the Network Rail leadership team.
The day started with a morning briefing on site, where a presentation and video aimed to get the message across that depression was begin taken seriously, as was working to identify the causes, signs and symptoms. This was followed up by a message from a member of staff on the Crossrail project, who spoke about their own personal experiences with depression and feelings of suicide.
The next part of the day revolved around discussion of how the project team at London Bridge has addressed mental health issues, specifically with the support of the mental health first aider programme and the training of staff on the mental health awareness course. Engagement tours followed, where groups of staff went to different areas of the site to talk with the work groups around mental health and fatigue. The aim of these tours was to stimulate conversation on site around the subject area, and to get feedback from the site team about how well company initiatives have worked and how they could be further improved.
The Finale: Frank delivers a knockout blow
The day concluded with an inspiring presentation from Frank Bruno MBE, on site, to a crowd of 600 members of staff. To build anticipation, identity of the guest speaker had been kept a mystery right up until an hour before Frank arrived. The presentation was led by the Costain Project Director, who interviewed Frank about his toughest moments outside of the ring. Frank spoke candidly about his upbringing, his family and his time being sectioned. He also spoke about the routines he now has in place that have helped him to turn his life around since. Frank urged the audience to look out for signs of depression between colleagues, and to offer help or a lending ear – which can be the smallest, yet most significant act to draw people back up from a low point.
Frank’s main messages were the importance of:
- Achieving a health balance, between exercise, diet and structure, in life
- Talking to family, friends, colleagues or counsellors, so that problems can be aired
- Addressing problems, rather than bottling them up and letting them escalate.
A theme of the presentation was that if Frank Bruno MBE, former WBA Heavyweight Boxing Champion, can stand up in front of 600 people and talk about his difficulties with mental illness without fear of stigma, then why can’t the average construction worker do the same? The presentation was well received by the workforce. It made for a memorable SHE Impact Day that was talked about for some time afterwards, re-enforcing the important message of mental health awareness.