HBF response to Mail on Sunday Article (19 June 2022)
In response to the Mail on Sunday’s article “UK builders go WOKE: Study finds three quarters of tradesmen discuss their feelings with colleagues while two thirds shun the fried breakfasts and nearly half say they are history buffs” (19 June 2022), please find an open letter from HBF’s Executive Chairman, Stewart Baseley, below:
On behalf of the Home Builders Federation (HBF), I am writing to express our disappointment regarding the article “UK builders go WOKE: Study finds three quarters of tradesmen discuss their feelings with colleagues while two thirds shun the fried breakfasts and nearly half say they are history buffs”, published in the Mail on Sunday on 19 June.
The UK is facing a significant mental health crisis and construction is one of the industries most affected. Indeed, the statistics make for sobering reading:
- Two construction workers take their own life every single working day
- 91% of construction workers have felt overwhelmed and 26% of workers have experienced suicidal thoughts
- The risk of a male construction worker dying by suicide is three times above the national average
Sharing feelings and concerns with those around us can be a vital part of maintaining good mental health and wellbeing. However, the continuing stigma around mental illness prevents many from doing so.
It was for this reason that HBF launched its Mental Health Awareness Campaign in 2019 to further understanding of the importance of good mental health, to normalise discussions about wellbeing within the industry and to signpost developers to appropriate mental health support. The campaign continues to be a driver of positive change in the industry, with over 1,000 individuals trained in mental health awareness and more than 1,600 individuals trained as Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA).
I was therefore appalled by the irresponsible and disparaging tone adopted in the article, particularly the assertion that builders who discuss their feelings are ‘woke’ and ‘sensitive souls’. The home building industry has gone to great lengths to break down the stigma concerning mental health and to encourage individuals to seek help should they need it. However, I am extremely concerned that the negative connotations associated with the language used in this article will reinforce people’s fear of speaking out and deter them from seeking support.
Any one of us could experience poor mental health in our lifetime and so we all have a responsibility to ensure that people feel comfortable admitting when they are not ‘okay’ without fear of judgement.
For any construction worker out there in need of help, I would encourage you to contact the Construction Industry Helpline, run by the Lighthouse Club charity, on 0345 605 1956. It is a free and confidential 24/7 helpline which can provide support on a range of emotional, physical and financial wellbeing matters. Support can also be received over text by messaging HARDHAT to 85258.