Gordon Cunningham: How Clark Contracts is breaking down barriers to help eliminate stigma of mental health



According to MIND, one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year and in 2017 the Centre for Mental Health reported that the overall cost of mental health problems to UK employers was almost £35 billion.

Even more worryingly for the industry, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that suicide rates amongst construction workers was 3.7 times above the national average.

With this in mind Gordon Cunningham, managing director Clark Contracts, talks to Scottish Construction Now about how the company has been making efforts to increase mental health awareness amongst its staff, break down barriers to help and eliminate the stigma.

Gordon Cunningham

We recognise the importance of mental wellbeing of our employees across our sites and offices. We want them to be happy at work and be able to speak up if they experience issues.

The first steps to making improvements included raising awareness of mental health as a topic so we launched our Healthy Working Lives Group. This group is made up of a cross-section of employees from various roles across the company. They were tasked with taking the first steps to introduce the subject matter and get everyone thinking about their own mental health with all employees taking part in an e-learning course and survey.

As a result of the group’s work, we achieved the Healthy Working Lives Silver Award in May 2019 and are working towards achieving Gold!

With an initial investment of £11,300, we now have two fully trained mental health first aiders and 11 mental health champions across the company. To further support this, 24 of our employees attended a half-day mental health awareness session.

One of the main challenges in implementing this training was to ensure it covered not only office staff but also site-based employees. Therefore, this initial batch of training was delivered to employees regularly visiting sites, including Contracts Managers and Health and Safety Advisors.

In addition, all line managers attended the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives mentally Healthy Workplace which is a full-day training course and all of our sites have received a toolbox utilising NHS Scotland’s Ahead for Health mental health awareness DVD.

We also offer a 24-hour Employee Assistance Programme provided by Care First, which is staffed by fully trained counsellors giving all employees access to confidential counselling and an information service, which provides them with practical and emotional support.

We hope that the training our employees have received gives them the confidence to speak up if they experience a problem. We have given them the tools to not only help themselves but those around them in the hope that they would be able to step in and help their colleagues if needed.

The investment will continue with further training planned for all employees across the company. To ensure we are continuously making a difference, our Healthy Working Lives team regularly ask for feedback to find out if there are particular areas they would like more information on and how we can better support them.

We run various marketing campaigns on mental health throughout the year to further reinforce our commitment to having a mentally healthy workforce.



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