Despite the great strides we at Wates and the wider industry has made to improve diversity, construction remains a predominantly male-dominated space, with a distinctly ‘macho’ image.
This mindset trickles down into how some think and talk about wellbeing. Our industry sees groups of men, of all different ages, working in close-knit teams everyday. Yet far too many don’t feel comfortable discussing their health with each other, instead brushing concerns under the carpet, scared that to acknowledge them is perceived as weakness.
It’s ok not to be ok
This is true of both physical and mental health. The latter in particular is incredibly concerning, with Public Health England finding that men working in construction are at most risk of suicide, with a rate of nearly four times the national average.
As an industry, we have to remove this stigma and, instead, let each other know it’s okay not to be okay.
We see how much collaboration our teams bring to projects, sharing experiences to achieve the best outcome, flagging any concerns they may have and getting second and third opinions from peers. Why can we not have the same approach to talking about our health?
We need to practice a more open approach when it comes to our wellbeing and it’s one that I firmly believe in championing myself.
Normalising men's health concerns
Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which saw me undergo an operation and a series of difficult chemotherapy sessions. It was arguably the most challenging time of my life, and I found the support of my work colleagues incredibly helpful to maintaining a positive outlook. Luckily, I was able to move fast on a diagnosis and successfully beat my cancer, but had I delayed speaking to a doctor about it I may not have been so fortunate.
That’s why I make a point of speaking about my own experience as much as possible no one likes talking about their balls, but we’ve got to normalise it! I hate the thought of men ignoring potentially life-threatening conditions, or suffering in silence over their mental health, all because of a little needless embarrassment.
It’s why I, and one of our site managers David Armstrong, another cancer survivor, have introduced Cancer Champion workshops on our sites in the North, where we educate our teams on the importance of checking yourself regularly for testicular cancer.More information on testicular cancer.
Opening up dialogue
As well as this, I’m proud to say that Wates is already doing lots to promote a more open dialogue around wellbeing nationally. This includes introducing Time to Talk mental health sessions on all sites, creating quiet spaces that people can go to if they need some time alone, and generally adopting a genuine attitude of asking people how they are, that’s practiced from the top down.
It is so important that we talk more to each other. You need to check in with team mates, talk openly about any worries you may have, remind others to prioritise their health, and let them know you’re there to listen.
I firmly believe we’ll be a better, healthier industry for it.