Engineering sector facing mental health crisis, says study

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A new report from EqualEngineers has found that one in five engineers has lost a work colleague to suicide, and over a fifth (22.5%) have considered suicide or self-harm – with men 3.5 times more likely to have done so. 

The statistics to come from the Masculinity in Engineering survey, which surveyed over 800 engineers in the UK. One respondent reported that: "Masculinity is a prison and a prize, strictly required of men but still more heavily penalised in women."

EqualEngineers believes that these findings show the dangerous affect that the lack of inclusion and support for mental health is having in the sector. Key findings from the survey include:

  • Over a third (37.2%) of engineers would describe their mental health as fair or poor, and over a fifth have had to take time off work because of it
  • Less than a third of engineers believe the culture they work in is diverse (32.3%) or feel included in it (31.2%)
  • Both genders agree overwhelmingly that men are under pressure to behave in certain ways, and that society's expectations of men can be unrealistic.

Mark McBride-Wright, founder and managing director of EqualEngineers said, "Engineering is a traditionally male, white dominated sector. It can be very lonely, if you feel even a little bit ‘different' to the supposed ‘norm'.

"The Masculinity in Engineering Report shows that inclusivity in the workplace is a health and safety issue. Not being able to be open about who you are, because of attitudes and lack of diversity around you can lead to mental health issues and decreased wellbeing. We need to create a culture where men can be vulnerable, and can understand their own diversity story. We do not have this in our male-majority industry, and we need to work to bring down the psychological barriers preventing it."

The report makes recommendations for the sector, including increased parity between the importance of physical safety and good mental health, modelling flexible working at senior level and highlighting the ‘toxic' in toxic masculinity.

"Men must be emboldened to be able to proudly define their own masculinity, and be reconciled with the idea that masculinity in itself is not negative at all, but that it is specific traits and behaviours, associated with a toxic, hyper-competitive, macho culture that must disappear to make way for healthy, diverse and inclusive work environments for all," McBride-Wright added.

EqualEngineers believes engineering organisations, institutions and membership bodies need to work together for a concerted focus on tackling mental ill health. The content from the report will be discussed at a panel on Masculinity at the Equality in Engineering conference, taking place in London on 4 October 2019.

Read the full Masculinity in Engineering report here.