Giedre Jurkonyte, ICE National Council Member and ICE Benevolent Fund Trustee explains why she's encouraging her colleagues and peers to talk openly about their mental health on World Mental Health Day (10 October).
As an active ICE member, I’m proud to spend a good deal of my time promoting the numerous benefits of being a shaper of the world and sharing my own positive career experiences. I regularly tell people how privileged I am to work on high profile projects such as the Manchester Airport Transformation Programme and Manchester Metrolink, as well as about the incredible opportunities I’ve had to travel the world and see some of the most ambitious engineering feats up close. For me engineering is more than my career, it's how I see the world.
But I've pledged to speak more about mental health challenges in our industry and today I’m urging my friends, peers and colleagues to do the same.
Like many industries, firms large and small are becoming much more visible with their initiatives to support employees in looking after their mental health.
I’m also proud to say that my company, Laing O'Rourke, has worked closely with charities and organisations raising awareness about mental health issues, and supporting people near us experiencing mental ill health. This is reassuring to see, but I believe our industry needs to be doing more. And it all starts with a conversation.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Day is suicide prevention, a particularly pertinent topic for us, as I recently read that, tragically, more than one construction worker a day takes their own life – which is three times the UK rate for men.
We're fortunate to work in a sector full of opportunities to develop and grow, but I know I won’t be alone in having experienced the heightened pressure this industry comes with. We often work very long hours, may spend chunks of time away from home and work to tight deadlines.
Coupled with the fact that we're still working to improve the industry's gender balance, the 'stiff upper lip' culture has the potential to have a detrimental impact on a person's mental health.
On World Mental Health Day, you and others across the globe are being encouraged to take 40 seconds to kick start a conversation with someone you trust about how you're feeling.
Employers and managers are being encouraged to take 40 seconds to formulate a positive message of support to your employees about resources available to them in the workplace or local community in times of mental distress. This is because one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, yet suicides are preventable.
The ICE Benevolent Fund - here for you
As a trustee of the ICE Benevolent Fund, I wanted to take this opportunity to make sure ICE members and their families know that this valuable resource is here every day to offer support, including a 24-hour helpline, face-to-face counselling and an online wellbeing library.
Do you and all your colleagues know about this? If not, please take a moment to spread the word and have a look around the website yourself.
Even if people don’t feel ready to talk, the online resources are always there to boost wellbeing and could be potentially lifesaving.
Offering self-help fact sheets and a wealth of information focusing on life events, milestones as well as crises, the Benevolent Fund resource library is a place to go whenever you need it most.
Health and wellbeing is just one strand of the Ben Fund’s hugely impactful work for ICE Members and their families, which includes housing support, financial support and workplace support, from the start of your career through to retirement.
World Mental Health Day is important and helps us to raise awareness, but let’s not let this be a passing hashtag that moves out of our consciousness. I believe our attitude to mental health should be on a par with physical health and we can each help to move us closer to this every day. It all starts with a conversation.