Q+A With Lighthouse Club CEO, Bill Hill
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week which, this year, falls within the middle of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Never before has mental health and wellbeing been so important and key for employees across all industries.
The ‘construction industry charity’ The Lighthouse Club – our chosen charity, and a cause we’re passionate about – is doing everything it can to support the industry at this tough time, so we caught up with CEO Bill Hill to find out why mental health support is so important, now more than ever.
Tell us about The Lighthouse Club and what you do.
We have been around for over 60 years and proud to be the only charity that is 100% dedicated to the welfare and wellbeing of construction workers and their families in the UK and Ireland.
Our mission is that “no construction worker or their family should be alone in a crisis”.
We enable this by providing a free downloadable self-help app and a free 24/7 confidential helpline. We also offer free, interactive, online wellbeing workshops and we are currently managing a major nationwide project to train over 10,000 onsite mental health first aiders.
The construction industry can be a tough sector when it comes to addressing mental health stigma. How much of a challenge is it to reduce the stigma of mental health in the industry?
Around 85 per cent of the construction industry workforce is male, so overcoming the stoic norms of the way men think and talk can be tough.
Every working day, the UK and Ireland loses two construction workers to suicide – that’s over 500 per year – at the moment that’s more than any other industry.
Men are not preconditioned to fully express their feelings, especially in the company of other men which is the main thing we need to tackle.
We’re trying to open up these conversations through Tool Box Talks and wellbeing workshops to help create an open environment and culture.
What are some of the tell-tale signs that someone is struggling with their mental health
There are many signs to look out for but the key one is change.
If a person is normally quite cheery but over time become quiet and withdrawn, you need to ask – repeatedly if necessary – if they are okay. And most importantly, make time for the answer.
I have three golden steps that I always use:
The first is from the Samaritans: Always ask twice. It’s so easy to say you are okay to someone. If you see somebody that appears to be struggling, ask again, make eye contact and wait for the answer.
The second is from a motivational speaker called Dr. Steven Covey from his book ‘Principle-Centred Leadership’. He says to “always seek to understand before you seek to be understood.”
This means when somebody does start telling you what is wrong, don’t jump to an immediate solution or trump them with your own story. They see life through their lens, not yours, so listen intently before responding. Sometimes the fact that you just listened is all they need.
The last is from the Dalai Lama – always be kind! There is no reason to be unkind to another human being. That’s not to say you can’t make tough decisions, but more about finding the kindest way of making and delivering them.
How do you feel COVID-19 has impacted mental health? Lots of people are staying at home now more than ever before. Have you noticed any changes?
Over 53% of the working population in construction are self-employed, agency workers or on zero-hour contracts and as such often only one or two paydays away from poverty.
From the beginning of the pandemic, calls to our helpline increased by 55 per cent with many callers concerned about financial issues.
We introduced professional caseworkers to help manage the most complicated cases for support. This has really helped those who call with what they believe is an insurmountable problem and somebody on the other end simply works with them to get all the support needed.
Now the UK is starting to go back to work – with the construction industry encouraged above all others – we hope this has already lightened the burden on the workforce’s mind.
How important would you say good mental health is for anyone?
Mental health is everything – the way we feel and think.
In my opinion, there is no health without mental health.