Giant mural raises awareness of suicide rates among the trade

A giant mural made up of 687 high-vis vests has been displayed on a construction site in London to represent the number of tradespeople who commit suicide each year. On average, 687 tradespeople die by suicide every year – that’s almost two each day. In 2021, tradespeople accounted for 15 per cent of suicides across all industries, which is more than any other occupation.

The mural, at the Galliford Try construction site near Charing Cross, has been created by IronmongeryDirect and ElectricalDirect to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May). The companies hope it will give mental health ‘higher visibility’ and urge employers to offer support to their employees.

The 687 high-vis vests were stitched together into one 12-metre-tall garment by fabric manufacturer J&C Joel.

The display was unveiled alongside IronmongeryDirect and ElectricalDirect’s annual Mental Health in the Trades report, which found that more than four in five (84 per cent) UK tradespeople experience mental health problems due to work-related issues.

As part of the campaign, the companies have partnered with mental health charity Basildon Mind, and are donating more than £5,000 to support its crucial services.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workspace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “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 urge employers to create cultures where employees can speak openly and honestly about their mental health.”

IronmongeryDirect and ElectricalDirect have also spoken to tradespeople willing to share their own stories, with the aim of encouraging others to do the same.

Rebecca Bishop, co-founder at Elite Building, said: “I experience burnout regularly, but it started getting serious in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. I remember asking my husband if it was possible to die from stress as I was genuinely concerned.

“I have often tried to survive it and make it to the other side. Sometimes I share vulnerably on social media about mental health, but I also put pressure on myself to always keep it together – which is ridiculous, because I am human and this is not possible.

“Tradespeople need to understand that they are never alone. Things don’t have to stay the way they are. We just need some brave people to step up and be vulnerable and share, which then might encourage others to share as well.”

Dominick Sandford, Managing Director at IronmongeryDirect and ElectricalDirect, said: “We hope that this artwork serves as a poignant reminder of the devastating impact of mental health issues within the industry. By bringing this issue to the forefront of people’s minds, we hope to encourage more open conversations around mental health and continue our efforts to support those who may be struggling.”

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