Features -

How COVID affected the trade’s mental health

Vickie Mather, Dulux Select Decorators Lead, in this latest feature for Construction Online, she writes about how the mental health of tradespeople has been affected since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mental health has always been an important topic within the construction industry, especially for painters and decorators.

Decorators often spend the majority of the day alone when working. Many professional painters and decorators have said that the job can often feel isolating.

Research carried out by Dulux Select Decorators discovered that 46% of tradespeople believe mental health challenges are a bigger issue for those working in the decorating profession than other trades.*

The mental health of our industry was put even further to the test during the Coronavirus pandemic as the nationwide lockdown led to 70% of painters and decorators being forced to down tools almost overnight.**

Many of our Dulux Select Decorators had jobs cancelled almost immediately. This was the same throughout the majority of the construction industry.

Sole traders and small businesses alike did not have the support of a HR department to advise them on the best safety practices throughout the pandemic, nor did they receive advice on what financial support would be available to them.

Instead, they were wondering where their next paycheck would come from and how and when they could go back to work safely.

Financial concerns and lack of clarity of the government support available only magnified the mental health issues faced throughout the trade.

Our research also discovered that not only were tradespeople struggling, they did not know where to turn to for support, with half of decorators admitting they would not feel confident enough to speak up and ask for support when it came to their mental health.*

In a bid to support our community, Dulux Select Decorators had already launched a Mental Health First Aid course available to members. To date, 16 members have taken the course and have in turn, become mental health ambassadors for their fellow professionals within the scheme and wider painting and decorating community.

As Mental Health First Aiders, they’re playing a valuable role in ensuring our members get through these challenging times. The only way the construction industry can overcome the mental health crisis is by talking to one another and creating an open forum for others.

To go further during the pandemic, we recently partnered with The Rainy Day Trust to increase the support available to members.

Rainy Day Trust is the only charity which exists solely to help people who have worked in the UK’s home improvement and enhancement industry, offering grants and financial support alongside training, counselling and legal services.

The new partnership allows The Rainy Day Trust to provide confidential professional support and services for our members. We hope to continue to extend the support we can provide. Our message to our members is – ‘don’t suffer in silence’ – your wellbeing is important to us. Our closed forum saw an uplift in members reaching out to each other for support and comfort at the height of the lockdown.

Thankfully, the construction industry has now been able to begin working again, but this comes with it’s own health and mental health worries.

We’ve found that painters and decorators have been eager to get back into doing the job they love and continue with their livelihood. However, new restrictions and safety measures have been a barrier that many have needed to overcome.

Already our research revealed that 60% of tradespeople, including painters and decorators, builders, plumbers and electricians believe that stress played a huge part in  mental health and wellbeing* – an economic crisis will only exaggerate this.

With the end of the pandemic far from sight and the new normal looking like it is here to stay, the fear of customers cancelling, lack of confidence in having trades in their homes in the winter months or another lockdown are all still concerns for the trade.

Helping decorators to address these concerns and allaying their very real fears is a work in progress, as we move through these difficult times we will all need to adapt further to the ongoing challenges ahead.

For more information and to find out how to join the Dulux Select scheme, visit: www.duluxselectdecorators.co.uk.