Developer Morro Partnerships, which works on multiple sites across Shropshire is marking Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13-19) by highlighting the importance of talking about mental health and challenging the stigma in the construction industry.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 6.8 people (14.7 per cent) have experienced work-related mental health problems.1

In construction specifically, suicide rates are rising, with ITV reporting last year that around two construction workers take their own lives every day.2

The Midlands-based company has introduced several initiatives to support staff with their mental health, which have allowed Morro to create a safe environment for people to talk openly and in confidence.

Several members of staff in different areas of the business have been trained to become mental health first aiders to help cultivate a culture of openness, helping to improve worker wellbeing and challenging industry stereotypes around mental health.

An on-site initiative called “The Big Discussion” has also been organised by Morro, where trained mental health professionals are invited to talk, and to provide a space where Morro colleagues are able to talk openly to each other about their own mental health experiences.

These sessions have given members of staff outside the office environment the forum to talk about their mental health and things that they may be experiencing. This event was well-received by those that attended, who were eager to see it return, and allowed Morro to continue fostering a culture of openness within the business.

Kerry Morris, mental health first aider and Head of Marketing at Morro Partnerships, said: “The recent ‘Big Discussion’ talk was an important step in introducing people to the idea of sharing their own mental wellbeing experiences. We weren’t sure how receptive people would be, as it’s quite a daunting experience, especially as a lot of people don’t talk about their mental health.

“However, the feedback we had was so positive. We had so many people thank us and immediately ask when the next one would be, which we have already scheduled for later in the year.

“People said they felt like a weight had been lifted, and they felt better knowing that what they were feeling and thinking was shared amongst their colleagues. This small, but really important step, helped people to see that many of us go through mental wellbeing issues. It is vital that we are all, as an industry, comfortable talking about these things.”

Mental health first aiders at Morro have become a point of contact for any employee who may be struggling with a mental health issue and are there to support their colleagues in finding the most appropriate help.

Not everyone can recognise when their mental health is declining or have the courage to reach out to others. This is why all mental health first aiders are trained in identifying the signs and symptoms of declining mental health, as well as knowing how to start an appropriate and productive conversation with individuals, should they need to.

This initiative is part of the company-wide effort by Morro Partnerships to bring down the rate of work-induced mental health problems and change the way that the construction industry considers and responds to mental health issues among its professionals.

Tom Grove, mental health first aider and Assistant Site Manager at Morro Partnerships, said: “Morro strives to be pro-active in addressing the stigma that comes with mental health in the construction industry. All of our developments now display photos and contact details of all our mental health first aiders and encourage people to reach out if they need someone to talk to. We have the details of multiple professional mental health support groups if they feel like speaking to someone they know is too difficult.

“The construction industry is a very demanding industry to be involved with. Not only is it physically draining for operatives working out on site, but I would say even more so it is very tough mentally.

“There are many pressures and outside issues that can cause serious strain on one’s mental wellbeing. Suicide is terribly high within the construction industry. Something as simple as talking about your personal struggles and opening up to colleagues is the first step to bringing suicide rates down.”

Tom Grove is one of seven designated mental health first aiders for Morro Partnerships, all of whom have undergone training surrounding mental health and the factors that can affect personal wellbeing.

The developer takes a holistic approach to employee health and wellbeing, with the understanding that all its team members are individuals, and that an individual’s mental health is just as important as their physical health.

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Three of Morro’s mental health first aiders. Left to right Cath Waymouth, Mark Eustace, Tom Grove.