The Silent Struggle – Mental Health Challenges in UK Engineering

Introduction to Engineering Professionals Mental Health

The UK engineering industry plays a crucial role in driving innovation and technological advancement. However, it is also confronted with significant mental health challenges among its workforce. Research indicates that a substantial percentage of engineers experience stress at work, with over three-quarters reporting that their work is often stressful, and more than half acknowledging the negative impact of workplace stress on their mental health and wellbeing[5].

This underscores the pressing need to address mental health issues within the profession. A study focusing on the UK construction industry revealed that there are major mental wellbeing problems within the sector, exacerbated by factors such as high production pressures and inadequate control measures for physical health incidents[3].

The prevalence of these challenges emphasises the importance of prioritising mental health support and initiatives within the engineering industry. Efforts to raise awareness and provide tools to support stress at work are underway, with some employers actively working to improve mental health and wellbeing within the manufacturing and engineering sector[1][2]. It is imperative for the industry to continue striving for better mental wellbeing support to ensure the overall wellbeing of its workforce.

3 Factors Influencing Poor Mental Health 

In our research for this article, we found you can distil the influencing factors down to three key areas:

  1. Demanding work environment
  2. Job insecurity
  3. Isolation and team dynamics

Demanding Work Environment

The high-pressure nature of engineering projects, characterised by tight deadlines and long working hours, significantly impacts the mental well-being of engineering workers. Research has shown that engineering students encounter high levels of stress, which may negatively impact their mental health[7][9]. Studies have also revealed that engineering students with mental wellbeing problems may be less likely to seek treatment, highlighting the need to understand the engineering student experience related to mental health[9]. In the professional realm, a significant percentage of engineers rate their mental wellbeing as moderate to poor, with a considerable proportion reporting experiencing mental health conditions or struggling mentally due to their roles[10].

Additionally, the demanding work environment in the engineering industry has been found to have a significant impact on the mental well-being of employees, with factors such as gender and designation influencing mental wellbeing[11]. These findings underscore the need for proactive measures to address the demanding work environment and its impact on the mental health of engineering workers.

Job Insecurity

Job insecurity within the engineering industry, particularly associated with project-based work, has been found to have a significant negative impact on the mental well-being of workers. Research again indicates that self-perceived job insecurity is negatively related to mental well-being for both permanent and temporary workers, leading to the emergence of psychological distress such as feelings of anxiety or depression.

The uncertainty surrounding job security can evoke a sense of unpredictability and powerlessness, contributing to wellbeing impairments and reduced well-being among workers. Furthermore, job insecurity has been shown to lead to poor psychological or mental wellbeing, ultimately affecting employees’ overall well-being and quality of life. The impact of job insecurity on mental wellbeing is particularly relevant in employment contexts characterised by high rates of temporary work and unemployment. Studies have also demonstrated a cumulative effect of prolonged job insecurity on mental health, emphasising the need to address this issue within the engineering industry to safeguard the well-being of its workforce.

Isolation and Team Dynamics

Isolation and team dynamics play a significant role in influencing the mental well-being of engineering workers. The previously mentioned research also indicates engineering students encounter high levels of stress, which may negatively impact their mental wellbeing. In the professional realm, a substantial percentage of engineering professionals rate their mental wellbeing as moderate to poor, with a considerable proportion reporting experiencing mental health conditions or struggling mentally due to their roles.

The engineering industry, being typically male-dominated, presents challenges related to mental health, with men often believed to be less willing to open up about their mental well-being than women. This underscores the importance of addressing the potential isolation in certain engineering roles and the influence of team dynamics on mental well-being.

4 Key Solutions to Tackling Mental Health Problems

There are four key ways you can support your engineering workforce:

  1. Awareness and education
  2. Supportive workplace policies
  3. Employee assistance programs
  4. Proactive and preventative education

Awareness and Education

Mental health awareness programs are crucial within the engineering industry, given the prevalence of mental wellbeing challenges among engineering professionals. To reduce stigma and promote well-being, educational initiatives are essential. Strategies such as workshops, seminars, and panel discussions can promote open dialogue about mental health in engineering education. Implementing education and awareness campaigns that provide information about mental health, common mental health conditions, coping mechanisms, and available support resources is crucial[2]. Collaboration with industry professionals who have experience in addressing mental health within engineering can bridge the gap between academia and industry, providing students with valuable guidance.

Supportive Workplace Policies

Existing workplace policies related to mental wellbeing within the engineering industry should be examined and improved to better support the well-being of employees. While nearly two-thirds (63%) of engineers report that their employer offers mental wellbeing advice and support, including access to counselling services, mental health first aiders, and flexible working options, there is still a significant portion (24%) who indicate that their employer does not offer mental wellbeing advice and support. This highlights the need for more comprehensive and inclusive workplace policies. Implementing supportive measures such as mental health first aid training for employees, flexible work arrangements, and clear protocols for seeking mental health support can contribute to a more supportive work environment. Additionally, addressing the stigma around mental health is crucial, and organisations within the engineering industry should strive to create an environment that fosters open conversations and provides necessary resources for employees to seek help when needed.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) play a vital role in providing mental health support within the engineering industry. EAPs offer benefits such as access to counselling services, mental health first aid, and flexible working options, which are essential components of a comprehensive mental health support system. Successful EAPs within the engineering industry have been instrumental in providing employees with the necessary resources and support to address mental health challenges. By offering confidential counselling services, promoting mental health first aid training, and facilitating flexible working arrangements, these programs contribute to creating a supportive and inclusive work environment for engineering professionals. The implementation and enhancement of EAPs are essential steps in prioritising mental health support and well-being within the engineering industry.

Proactive and Preventative Education

Taking a proactive approach in educating and raising awareness about mental wellbeing conditions is crucial. At Gallantium we specialise in providing support packages that focus on workplace mental health topics each month. Our comprehensive approach includes presentations, dramatised case studies, podcasts, written support guides, top support tips videos and exclusive articles designed to assist leaders and workers in understanding these topics effectively.

In our resources we facilitate the sharing of knowledge and encourage changes in behaviour. Our team, composed of experts in health, contributes to the development of our content. We ensure that our content is engaging and accessible for all employees catering to learning styles. We strongly believe in offering solutions that assist employers in managing mental well being concerns before they become overwhelming.

Our approach involves delivering content on a monthly basis thus allowing employers to consistently demonstrate care and support for health management. This approach ensures that positive mental health remains a priority providing managers and employees with the support and knowledge to maintain a safe and healthy work environment permanently. 

Of the above four solutions, and there are other ones like the nhs talking therapies, when engineers show warning signs of mental illness due to the demanding nature of the work, make sure you stay on top of your workplace health and safety responsibilities. Whether via your OH&S team, empowering work colleague s to not feel inadequate via education or simply sharing further information on the topic to reduce stigma, we all have the possibility to negate the negative effect certain work factors can have on our people.












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