Hundreds of hard hats laid to represent construction workers who have died by suicide in poignant Leeds College of Building display

Hundreds of hard hats were laid out in Leeds as part of a poignant display paying tribute to construction workers who have died by suicide.

By Rebecca Marano
Thursday, 13th May 2021, 4:45 pm
Hundreds of hard hats were laid out at Leeds College of Building to represent the tradespeople who have died by suicide.
Hundreds of hard hats were laid out at Leeds College of Building to represent the tradespeople who have died by suicide.

A total of 454 hats were placed in the Leeds College of Building, representing the tradespeople who have taken their own lives.

It comes as the college works to raise awareness as part of Mental Health Awareness week.

The latest Office of National Statistic data shows that suicide is the leading cause of death in England in adults below the age of 50.

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Hundreds of hard hats were laid out at Leeds College of Building to represent the tradespeople who have died by suicide.

The risk of suicide among low-skilled male labourers, particularly those working in construction roles, was found to be three times higher than the male national average.

For males working in skilled trades, the highest risk was among building finishing trades; particularly, plasterers and painters and decorators had more than double the risk of suicide than the male national average.

The exhibition was organised by IronmongeryDirect the UK’s largest supplier of specialist ironmongery, as part of its wider campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues amongst the UK trades.

It worked alongside the college, which has campuses in north Street and Cudbear Street, and the national mental health charity Mind.

Nikki Davis, Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning at Leeds College of Building said “As a College specialising in education and training for the construction industry, we were pleased to be given the opportunity to get involved in a campaign highlighting suicide in construction and help raise awareness of how important mental health is.

"We encourage all staff and students to be open and honest about mental health, talk about any issues or struggles they are currently facing, and provide support to anyone who needs it”.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workspace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “We know that issues like stress, anxiety and depression are common in all workplaces, but that there are some sectors where poor mental health is even more prevalent, including construction.

“Because men generally find it more difficult to talk about how they’re feeling, in male-dominated industries such as construction, employees are often less willing and able to open up about their mental health and ask for support. This can be problematic because mental health problems often become worse if left untreated, and the consequences can be fatal.

“We’re pleased to be working with IronmongeryDirect during Mental Health Awareness Week to launch our ‘Mental Health in the Trades’ report highlighting the scale of poor mental health across the sector, and urging employers within construction to create cultures where employees can speak openly and honestly about their mental health.”

A survey undertaken by IronmongeryDirect of 1,000 tradespeople found that mental health problems were common in the industry.

Nearly three in five (58 per cent) said that they deal with some form of issue, such as stress, anxiety or depression, at least once a week, resulting in over a quarter (28 per cent) taking medication.

Finances are the biggest cause of stress (38 per cent), but tensions with customers (31 per cent) and suppliers (29 per cent), as well as high workloads (26 per cent), also add to the strain.

More than one in four (29 per cent) tradespeople say they do not feel comfortable talking to anyone about their mental health.

Marco Verdonkschot, Managing Director at IronmongeryDirect, said: “It’s heart-breaking to hear the statistics – on average, at least one construction worker dies from suicide every single day of the year – but seeing the scale of the problem laid out visually really hits home.

“Unfortunately, mental health problems are common in the construction industry, but lots of people don’t feel able to talk about their feelings.

"This stigma needs to be addressed if the awful suicide statistics are to be lowered, so hopefully by raising awareness of the issue, things can start to gradually improve.”

As part of its campaign, IronmongeryDirect has donated £5,000 to Mind..

Furthermore, 100 of the hard hats from the stunt have been donated to the Leeds College of Building to hand out to its students.