Skanska introduce simple solution to identify mental health first aiders

Press release 17/01/2022 17:20 CET

Skanska launches simple but potentially life changing initiative to help with mental health on construction sites.

Mental health first aiders (from left to right) Paul Chambers and Ken Reid sporting their new MHFA stickers

Skanska has just launched a new initiative on its highways projects to make Mental Health First Aiders more visible. All employees who have undertaken Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s Mental Health First Aid course, will now be able to display a Mental Health First Aider sticker on their construction hard hat.  

MHFA England, a social enterprise that offers expert guidance and training to support mental health has been working with Skanska since 2016. More than 55 per cent of Skanska employees have been trained in the MHFA England Mental Health Aware course or as Mental Health First Aiders since that time. 

The launch of this simple signposting initiative further supports Skanska’s commitment to increasing awareness around mental health and removing the stigma surrounding it. 

The initiative has been rolled out across our £255 million M42 Junction 6 Improvement Scheme for National Highways. Out of the hundred or so people currently working on the project, eight are Mental Health First Aiders. From today they will proudly display their qualification sticker on their safety helmets. This means that everyone on site, no matter their role, will know who they can talk to, should they need support. 

Speaking about the challenges faced by people in the construction sector, Tricia O’Neill, Skanska’s Head of Health Risk Management said:  
“As a contractor, you are starting new jobs all the time and having to drop into new places and sites without a network. It’s difficult to build communities. You will often spend long periods away from your family, friends, and your GP. If you’re only there for a few months, people may not get to know you, meaning recognising if someone is struggling and offering the right support and signposting becomes more difficult.” 

Ken Reid, M42 Junction 6 Health, Safety and Wellbeing Manager, who came up with the sticker idea, is a trained Mental Health First Aider. He said: “Having our Mental Health First Aiders visible on site is helping to normalise conversations around mental ill health and remove the stigma surrounding it. The sticker easily identifies those who are trained and can provide support. People know who to speak to quickly, and if necessary, discreetly, so that they can get the help they need.”

Ken goes on to talk about the benefits of becoming a Mental Health First Aider:  “The last couple of years have been tough. We have noticed that more people than ever are coming forward to say they feel lonely and isolated. The training from Mental Health First Aid England has given me greater awareness of others’ emotional wellbeing. My fellow Mental Health First Aiders and I listen and offer guidance on where to get the right support.  It can be as simple as offering to have a cuppa and a chat with a colleague - as the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.”   

Skanska UK Highways Director, Glennan Blackmore said: “Ken’s idea of stickers, identifying Mental Health First Aiders is such a simple one but the impact for those on site could be potentially life changing. My hope is that this initiative will be adopted across the industry, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health.”    

Simon Blake, Chief Executive of MHFA England said: “It is wonderful to see Skanska’s ongoing commitment to the mental health of its people. It’s ambition to train its staff in mental health awareness is impressive. The training will only create change if people know where to turn if they need support and feel safe and confident doing so. This initiative helps that. I love the simplicity of it and hope that it will be rolled out more widely across the sector.”   

National Highways Programme Leader Anita Prashar, said: 
“At National Highways we want everyone to get Home Safe and Well. This is a great initiative and we’re delighted to support it. The mental health of our colleagues is incredibly important.” 

Find out more about Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England training at www.mhfaengland.org     

Building Mental Health - Mental Health First Aiders Social Value Report - 2018 – 2021

A quarter of construction employees in the UK have considered taking their own lives and between 2011 – 2015, more than 1,400 people died by suicide

26 per cent of construction industry workers had experienced suicidal thoughts

97 per cent recorded being stressed at least once in the last year

48 per cent had taken time off work because of unmanageable stress and mental ill health

91 per cent felt overwhelmed