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In July 2023 the Health and Social Care Committee announced it was going to examine men’s mental and physical health in a new inquiry. At Mates in Mind, we advocate for a holistic model to support an important organisational culture change to a prevention approach, with an empowered management and workforce culture which meets the needs of the business regardless of their size and the individual employee. We also believe that there is no health without mental health and therefore it was imperative that we responded to the inquiry.

Our submission drew on our expertise, evidence and experience with regards to raising understanding and awareness of, and removing the stigma surrounding, mental health which enabled us to make eight recommendations for changes that could help to improve mental wellbeing in the workplace.

As a result of our submission, Sarah Meek, Managing Director, Mates in Mind was one of only five people invited to give evidence at the Committee’s first oral session on 5 December. You can watch a recording of the session on Parliament TV (Sarah is in session 2 which starts at 10:54:00)

Below is the executive summary, top line recommendations and the conclusion. The full submission, including our detailed recommendations and solutions, can be read on the UK Parliament website, along with a copy of the transcript from the oral session.

Executive summary

“Suicide will always be a permanent solution to what can be a temporary problem.”

In 2021, 507 construction workers took their own lives. Mental Health issues faced by those within construction is 4x higher than the general population. This is too many, and it has to stop. However, in recent years this devastating statistic has not reduced, as often greater focus and reliance is placed on the more reactive measures such as helplines, apps, and Mental Health First Aiders in place of primary prevention measures such as psychosocial risk identification, mitigation and awareness training. But there is a way. Over the last six years Mates in Mind has advocated for:

  • A proactive, prevention strategy – empowering employers and employees, with an emphasis on line managers with the guidance, skills, resources and confidence to change their workplace culture and identify contributory risks.
  • A holistic strategy - rather than focusing on a tick box approach to mental health or prioritising crisis support at the point of need - we educate, train and support employers and their employees across the whole workforce to ensure there is a continuous and comprehensive solution in place so that no-one reaches crisis point and mental health awareness becomes everyone’s issue.
  • Remove the stigma – too many people are afraid to talk about mental health at work. An open and supportive workplace culture with proactive steps to support people early can overcome that.

This submission focuses on construction, as well as related sectors including transport, logistics, manufacturing and others, as they are the areas where we have most experience and evidence. However, much of the commentary can equally be applied to other industries. Whilst many of the recommendations are gender neutral, they would benefit all genders and particularly those identifying as male as they are the largest cohort working in the sectors previously mentioned. We also know that 1 in 4 people within construction identify as neurodiverse, and this community has a higher predisposition to personal mental health challenges, and many will not currently share their diagnosis with colleagues or line managers.

Top line recommendations

  1. Ensure the Equality Act 2010 is explicit in covering mental health and use asset-based language to help remove the stigma.
  2. Update RIDDOR legislation and reporting requirements to include suicide to ensure organisations take their mental wellbeing duty of care seriously.
  3. Update HSE’s guidance on writing a ‘health and safety policy’ to include a mental wellbeing strategy to prevent ill-health and enforce a more stringent inspection process of organisations to assess their compliance with the legal duty of care to protect workers from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.
  4. Update the HM Treasury’s Annual Report writing guidance, staff report section 6.5.45.i to be explicit about reporting on mental wellbeing and action taken to support employees.
  5. Department for Education to ensure that all apprenticeship, further education, A-level and degree courses include mental wellbeing within the curricula to prepare future workforces.
  6. Continue to build and support the cross-government ten-year plan for mental health and wellbeing to ensure it is at the heart of government.
  7. The Government and NHS should run a public awareness campaign.
  8. Include a mandatory proactive approach to mental health within all Government awarded contracts as part of the procurement process.


Some organisations are doing great work in this area - transforming their own workplaces, raising awareness, removing the stigma and empowering their supply chains. However, there is also still too much variation and inconsistency, with support focused on when someone reaches crisis rather than looking to identify and mitigate the contributing factors. A tick-box approach to mental health with an over-reliance on safety nets is not creating the change we need. Simply having a Mental Health First Aider in every workplace is not going to create the change that is needed around proactive ways to address psychosocial risks. Over 54,000 companies in construction have less than 4 employees and 0.8 million are self-employed. We also need to work together to identify and address the factors within the industry that contribute to someone becoming unwell through their work – including work related stress, financial pressures and lack of control.

This is why Mates in Mind advocate a holistic model to support an important organisational culture change to a prevention approach, with an empowered management and workforce culture which meets the needs of the business regardless of their size and the individual employee.    

Read the full submission

Watch the Committee session 

(The second session starts at 10:54:00)

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