Building an understanding of mind

Ella Rhodes reports on an app for the construction industry.

A psychologist has launched mind fitness training and an app to help tackle the high prevalence of mental ill health and suicide in the construction industry. Chartered Psychologist Dr Vanessa Moulton was inspired to act when she discovered the suicide rate in construction workers is more than three times the national average.  

Moulton and colleague Tom Storey, who works as a consultant in the construction industry, joined together to create Ownminder. It includes senior leadership training, staff training and an accompanying app, to emphasise the importance of prevention in mental health among construction workers. They worked alongside founding partners in the industry including Danny Lucas from Lucas UK, Danny Chaney from blu-3, Brian Morrisroe from the Morrisroe Group and David Darsey from the Erith Group to help develop the training and app.

During her time working with military veterans with Help for Heroes, Moulton said she realised that mental health support was missing a trick. ‘Historically psychologists have focused on how we provide support, or get the right support, for someone who has reached the point where they’re struggling with their psychological health. It dawned on me that we had a really great opportunity to help people to understand their minds so that they can look after their psychological health before it gets to the point where they’re struggling.’

After setting up her own business, Mindflex, and developing a prevention-focused mental fitness platform for the MOD, she began running workshops and training in other industries. Moulton said she was struck by the rates of mental ill health and suicide among people working in construction and pointed out that mental health was brought into health and safety regulations in 2018. ‘I was a keynote speaker at a mental health in construction online event talking about prevention…  and there was a senior psychologist from the Health and Safety Executive who pointed out that, in construction, mental health was the only thing whereby we wait until something has gone wrong and then we respond. I’m just trying to promote a level of parity between mental health protection and physical health and safety.’

Moulton explained that unique factors might make construction workers more likely to develop mental health problems. ‘It’s a very transient industry, people move around and change jobs, and we know that having a sense of belonging is really important for our psychological health. Many workers have to spend a lot of time away from their families on projects… they work very long hours, getting up early and coming home late. It’s also quite physical, so there’s more chance of people struggling with pain and there is a strong correlation between pain and mental ill health.’

The Ownminder training works through in-person and online workshops for staff and leaders in construction, which highlight how the mind works and strategies for supporting mental wellbeing. Once someone has been through the initial training they can access an accompanying app with information and support focused on prevention of mental health difficulties.

‘I think that narrative is a big change… it just isn’t how we’ve talked about mental health over the last however many years. We are talking about prevention a lot more, but it amazes me every time I do a workshop that people haven’t thought about psychological health in that way. As an industry we’ve got a big job to do around the prevention side of things – we have to do more, and organisations have to do more, to help protect their workforce effectively.’ 

To find out more about Ownminder see: www.ownminder.com.

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