The B1M and Procore have joined forces in a global campaign to tackle the alarming rates of suicide and mental health issues prevalent in the construction industry. Together, they aim to herald a new era of wellbeing and wellness within the sector.
In July of this year, The B1M and Procore formally launched Get Construction Talking, a global initiative reshaping the conversation around mental health in the construction sector.
Since its debut in London, the campaign has quickly gained momentum, expanding to Chicago in September and reaching Sydney in November. Hosted by Sasha Reed, senior director of industry transformation at Procore, and Fred Mills, founder of The B1M, the Australian launch brought together industry leaders to contribute to the ongoing conversation about mental health in the field.
During the discussions, Alison Mirams, executive chair at Roberts Co, shared valuable insights into the implementation of a five-day work week for all Roberts Co projects. She emphasised that this change has led to employees enjoying their work more, exhibiting higher productivity, and having more time to spend with their families.
Chris Lockwood, CEO at MATES in Construction, also participated in the panel, shedding light on the organisation’s general awareness training. This training equips construction workers with practical skills not only to seek help for their own mental health but also to identify when a colleague may need support.
Further, attendees had the opportunity to hear from John Briggs, chief executive at Interact Australia, an Indigenous-owned and operated construction and building maintenance company. Briggs discussed the unique challenges Indigenous people encounter in the workforce. Additionally, he outlined the company’s proactive measures to address these challenges, including providing access to nutritionists, implementing a cultural leave policy, and offering an employee assistance program staffed by both male and female Indigenous psychologists.
The diverse perspectives shared during the event underscored the industry’s commitment to addressing and improving mental health. But challenges still remain.
The timing of the Get Construction Talking campaign couldn’t be more crucial. The construction industry has been silently grappling with a long-standing mental health crisis, causing widespread damage globally. In Australia, the alarming statistics reveal a grim reality – construction workers are eight times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work. Shockingly, the industry witnesses the loss of a construction worker to suicide every second day. To underscore the severity of the issue, a report presented to MATES in Construction by The University of Melbourne in 2022 found that between 2001 and 2019, there were 4,143 suicides among identified construction workers (both male and female) in Australia. Sadly, similar statistics have emerged in the UK, US, and other regions.
Mills intimately understands the gravity of this crisis. While employed at a leading contracting firm in the UK, he struggled with the formidable challenges pervasive in the construction industry, ultimately navigating through some of his darkest moments. These experiences led him to establish The B1M in 2012 – a video publishing company with a focus on lifting up the construction industry’s best stories and showcasing them in a compelling and engaging format on the platforms that millions of people use every day. The B1M quickly grew to become one of the largest global video channels for the construction industry, with over 24 million viewers each month. However, even amid this success, Mills continued to confront enduring mental health challenges.
“I had been struggling with my mental health for some time, but 2022 proved to be an especially challenging year for me,” says Mills. “In November of that year, I had the opportunity to speak at Procore’s Groundbreak event in New Orleans.”
“During my keynote, I opened up about my personal struggles, emphasising the importance of acknowledging and addressing mental health issues within the industry.
“It was at that moment that I came to realise that what I was dealing with was not a choice but an illness – something big, scary, and beyond my control.”
Making the decision to finally confront his challenges, Mills sought counselling, delving deeper into understanding the issue and embarking on a journey of self-discovery. Empowered by a fresh perspective, Mills felt compelled to make his experiences part of his narrative, part of who he was, not only for his own personal growth but also for the betterment of the broader construction industry.
“I recognised the significant opportunity I had through keynote speeches at Procore’s Groundbreak events, and knew I had to leverage this platform to raise awareness about the often-overlooked issue of mental health within the construction industry,” he says.
Mills approached Procore about turning his experiences into a global campaign for mental health awareness in the industry, leading to the creation of the Get Construction Talking campaign, a unique and bold initiative unlike anything else in this space.
“It was really organic how it all came together,” says Reed. “I was sitting in the room when Fred spoke about his experience with mental health.”
“Him making that choice during the Groundbreak event to leverage that platform as a place to be vulnerable shifted the atmosphere in the room and the response was so overwhelmingly positive from our customers and partners.
“Some may have assumed that, given Procore’s status as a progressive technology company, Fred’s talk was somehow aligned and orchestrated, but it wasn’t.”
Procore’s vision is to improve the lives of everyone in the construction industry, but the company is keenly aware that achieving this vision requires more than just technological innovation. Reed says it means acknowledging and respecting the individuals who devote their lives to the industry day in and day out, and recognising the human elements that exist within the culture of construction.
“Procore already has initiatives around culture in construction, partnering with our customers and prospects to help them become employers of choice,” says Reed. “When Fred approached us about turning his experiences into a global campaign for mental health awareness in the construction industry, the values driving this initiative resonated seamlessly with Procore as an organisation, aligning with our ongoing efforts in the mental health space, and compelling us to seize the moment.”
In the months that followed, Procore and The B1M identified a number of charities doing great things for the industry, such as MATES in Construction in Australia and New Zealand, the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and Mates in Mind in the UK, and the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention in the US. Through Get Construction Talking, Procore and The B1M have set a goal to raise $1 million to support these non-profit organisations.
“These are great organisations doing great things, but they need more support and increased awareness,” says Mills. “Through Get Construction Talking, we harnessed the collective strength of The B1M and Procore as global businesses to engage with a broad audience in the industry.”
“Our objective is to raise awareness about mental health issues, help people learn how to initiate conversations about mental health, and guide them toward the support provided by these mental health organisations.”
Mental health impacts individuals uniquely, with varied triggers and experiences, although workers in the construction industry, whether in the UK, Australia, the US, or elsewhere, face common challenges. It’s a predominantly male-dominated field contending with issues like inadequate payment practices, long working hours and deficient business models.
“What we’ve come to understand through our work at The B1M is that despite geographical or experiential differences, human emotions are a universal thread that binds us all together,” says Mills. “The things that invoke laughter or tears are remarkably similar.”
“The same holds true for mental health – those pressures, uplifting moments and joyous occasions resonate similarly for all of us.”
The striking similarity in mental health and suicide statistics within the construction industry across different countries can be disheartening. Nonetheless, Mills sees it as an opportunity for meaningful change.
“If we discover solutions, make a positive impact and demonstrate how we can address this crucial issue, starting at a local level, we can share those best practices globally,” he says.
The collaboration between The B1M and Procore is particularly powerful, given the inherently global reach of each of their platforms. This positions them to extend the initiative to countries worldwide, fostering positive change on a broad scale. Their ultimate goal: reduce the suicide rate and improve mental health in the construction industry.
“It may sound like a big, lofty goal,” says Mills. “But why shouldn’t that be the goal?”
The impact of the Get Construction Talking campaign is evident in the meaningful conversations taking place on a local level and the positive feedback the initiative has received from individuals worldwide. The initial launches of Get Construction Talking in London, Chicago and Sydney mark just the beginning of The B1M and Procore’s global effort to combat a global problem.
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