During lockdown I spoke with a number of professional consultancies who were not aware of the prevalence of mental health crisis within the construction industry and moreover the number of suicides, principally amongst young males engaged within building being some three times higher than the national average. I offered my skillset as a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) to these professional consultants, so they could have some coverage during the unprecedented period of unease but following our conversations they secured MHFA training for a number of their employees. Education of all within the industry became a consideration that needed to be addressed, not only for the ignorance of or stigma surrounding mental health, but to the awareness of support colleagues, friends or indeed strangers when they may be suffering in silence and at their darkest hours of need.
It was late evening on the 6th August 2020, that I put my thoughts into words concerning our local construction sector was giving duplicity to the important issue of mental health and wellbeing. If no individual took the reins and brought together a strategic plan to provide a consistent approach to making parties aware of the significance of mental health and wellbeing, alongside managing a support network, I feared that due to the pandemic there would be an increase in the number of individuals suffering a mental health crisis or perhaps more regrettably the incidence of suicide rising. I suggested in my email to two other principal contractors (of larger turnover than Cheesmur) and our safety consultant, that we should form a “collective” of local contractors to offer a consistent approach to raising awareness of mental health and pool our resources to engage with those suffering mental health crises and provide them with clear support and guidance for sourcing the help required. Initial interest was positive, albeit stilted in fear of potential costs and whether the initiative was simply a whim. I secured the assistance of Ian Pickard (Cheesmur health and safety consultant) to act with me in founding the collective.
SWAG is now not “I” but proudly “we” as in Ian Pickard and myself as Cofounding Directors. SWAG would not have moved forward with such momentum, without the committed support of Sunninghill and Westridge, whose representatives have assisted in promoting SWAG and attended numerous meetings with the Cofounding Directors. There has been an absolute resolve to collaborate and set aside any commercial business interests to ensure that we achieve the fundamental principle of presenting a consistent approach to mental health and wellbeing to support an individual(s) in mental health crisis or simply in need of a friendly conversation.
The initiative was initially directed toward local construction sites, where statistics show that most suicides prevailed. However, word spread of SWAG and it is now supported by legal organisations, professional consultants, Clients and marketing business alike. All of these “affiliated members” now being committed to assist in promoting good mental health and wellbeing and offering support to the pooled list of MHFA.