William encourages mental health awareness in building site visit

William encourages mental health awareness in building site visit

The Prince of Wales quizzed construction workers about their mental health during their lunch break when he visited a major building site in the capital.

William chatted to a group of carpenters and a supervisor when he visited their on-site canteen after touring the development in a hard-hat, high visibility jacket and protective glasses.

Construction workers face a higher risk of suicide than those from other sectors, with rates in the industry more than three times higher than the national average, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

When William first arrived at the building site in Acton, west London, where a Microsoft data centre is being built, he said: “I imagine construction is quite a male dominated environment, that’s a hard-to-reach group.”

Global construction firm Mace is building the project for Microsoft and William heard about initiatives the firm is running in partnership with Mates In Mind, a leading UK charity raising awareness and addressing the stigma of poor mental health.

It is thought a range of issues contribute to poor mental health on building sites, from workers employed away from home and so left isolated, pressure from construction deadlines, and the masculine culture where men do not talk about their feelings.

The Prince of Wales, wearing PPE (Justin Tallis/PA)
The Prince of Wales, wearing PPE (Justin Tallis/PA)

When William visited the canteen where workers were enjoying a lunch break, he asked a group of men if they “talk about mental health?” adding “mental fitness, is that something you relate to?”.

Supervisor Edward Xhafa, 43 said after speaking to the prince: “Everywhere you look there is pressure but we talk about it a lot.

“We look after each other, we communicate with each other and there are sessions here every week where you’re able to talk through everything.”

Royal visit to construction site
The Prince of Wales discussed mental health (Justin Tallis/PA)

William has campaigned for a number of years to raise awareness about mental health including its effect on men, and his visit came shortly after World Suicide Prevention Day held on Sunday.

On the roof of the building site’s reception centre he sat down for a discussion with a number of industry representatives from Mace, Sarah Meek, managing director of Mates in Mind, and quantity surveyor Logan Price, a mental health advocate for the construction sector.

Mr Price, who has experienced mental health issues, stressed workers talking about issues, and being motivated to express their feelings, was important.

He said about the discussion with William: “We spoke about the impact the client can have on the workers, if they can make that first step, that’s the most important thing.

“If you can encourage people to talk about their mental health that’s better than me going to someone and trying to get them to talk.”

Ms Meek said after the discussion: “The prince was particularly interested about what we could do as an industry, what we could do to make a difference and to stop this from happening.

“We can do it all as individual companies, or actually the work we’re doing at Mates In Mind is working across that industry.”