Everton FC Legend Trevor Steven is Starting a Football Mental Health Revolution to Save Lives in Construction

Everton legend Trevor Steven is tackling construction site workers’ vulnerability to suicide and urging those who work in the industry to complete an anonymous survey seeking solutions to the issue.

Former England World Cup player Steven was part of Everton’s most-successful team in the 1980s, winning two League Championships, an FA Cup and European Cup-Winners’ Cup, scoring both in the final and semi-final of the latter, which were among the 60 goals he netted in 299 appearances. And he is now Causeway Technologies’ mental health ambassador.

He told the Liverpool ECHO:

“I’d taken a strong interest in elite performance mentality, studied it and was looking at doing talks on it for corporate audiences and Phil (Brown, chief executive of Causeway Technologies) got in touch with me and told me about his partnership with Everton in the Community and how they had donated money into the building of The People’s Place on Spellow Lane.

He’s a lifelong Evertonian, originally from L4 and his business provides products and solutions for the construction industry so he told me that he wanted to give something back to that sector. We talked about it and discovered the chronic statistics that are in and around the construction industry where mental health is concerned.

I’d been studying all about the brain and how we react to things so the opportunity arose for me to work with them as an ambassador. Here was a firm with 500 people and with my Everton connection we felt there was synergy and an opportunity to join the dots between mental health, construction and football.

The construction industry has the biggest workforce in the UK and there are terrible statistics with mental health and they’re getting worse. One in four in the construction industry contemplate suicide and on average, two construction workers take their own life every working week.

“We both concluded that’s there was work to be done but we could so something, let’s save a life. Over the past year I’ve been working with Everton in the Community on what that looks like, watching the progress of The People’s Place and learning more for myself about the mental health side of things, particularly within the construction industry.

That’s taken me to various audiences from small round table discussions with political individuals including local councillors and small businesses while also speaking to tier one companies across construction in trying to do something that is achievable. That begins with getting football and myself to start talking about it and flagging up the kind of issues and dilemmas that they have.”

Steven, 59, is hoping to use fans’ love for their football club as an entry point into a more accessible approach when providing support on mental health issues and he said: “In the broader sense we would like to see football take a stand on the destigmatisation of poor mental health and being judged by any issue that you might have it if leaks out. It’s an industry that is male-dominated with men making up 87% of the workforce and the working environments often very much resemble football dressing rooms in that they’re macho, ego-controlled areas and not everybody is like that, we’re all different so our thought process is to get the conversation going and to open up to make it a more normal environment.

“If you look at a supporter of a football club, that love tends to run very deep and it tends to be for life but then the transient nature of the workforce in the construction industry doesn’t tend to allow for developing relationships or longer, trusting relationships in the workplace, it tends just to be where you work and there’s nothing else attached. Perhaps you put up with it, maybe you hate it while some people thrive on it but we’re talking about the people who do find it difficult.

If you start to change that environment then you’ll get the knock-on effect of people being more open and feeling more normalised when speaking beyond their families who are sometimes difficult to talk to. A lot of the sad stories that we hear tend to go along the lines of ‘we didn’t know anything was wrong’ or ‘we didn’t see this coming’ as there are barriers even within family that can isolate people.

So we thought, ‘what about the badge, the love of your club?’ And the trust and the openness that you have with that relationship, where could that help conversations that we’d like to see happening? At Everton with the building of The People’s Place, which is open 24/7, 365 days a year – hopefully within the next couple of months – the intention is that becomes a safe space where members of the public, regardless of their football affiliation or lack of one, or whether they’re from L4 or not, recognise that there will be an open door and it will be staffed with people who will listen, help and direct.”

Whereas Everton have lead the way in this respect by constructing their own designated facility, Steven believes it could be the start of a national movement going forward and other clubs can all find a suitable space to play their part.”

He said:

“You don’t necessarily have to go as far as building an entirely new building like Everton have but if you multiply that over all the football teams in the country and designate a particular area, even within your stadium, you can create that safe space and direct people towards that then you start to get a conversation going. There are already some great charities out there, The Lighthouse Club is well-known in construction, Mates in Mind and The Samaritans but there’s a difference between putting a number up in the tea room on a building site saying ‘ring this if you have any mental health issues’ and knowing that your football club, the place you have a devotion to for life, could be a place to go so that’s the fundamental when joining the dots between mental health and construction and the possibility of there being over 90 walk-in areas across the country has got to be a good thing.

Nobody is deluded themselves by thinking that this could totally eradicate the problem but it can help keep the conversation out there and can show that there’s a place where help can be found and will help support other voices across this subject matter with the message that we need to be able to talk to each other more and listen more. If we get the key messages out there then we can start to see change and hear good stories about people being helped and turning situations and lives around because there is a way out and it’s not the way that they’ve been considering.”

In terms of their new stadium currently being built at Bramley-Moore Dock, Everton believe the on-site commitment of themselves and Laing O’Rourke to the welfare of workers sets the benchmark for the construction industry. On site facilities included an exercise area and dedicated contemplation and wellbeing spaces and a club statement reads that their contract partner “has a track-record for delivery and in-depth engineering knowledge, as well a commitment to the welfare of its construction workforce who, unlike most other contractors, it employs directly.

“The welfare facilities on-site for those working to deliver the new stadium were carefully planned 18-months in advance and provide working conditions that are the best in the industry. As an example, alongside the rest and recuperation facilities at Bramley-Moore Dock, is a pioneering immersive induction and employee learning space that puts the health, safety, welfare and wellbeing of staff at the very heart of the project delivery.”

Steven, who believes that a key to start making changes for the good in the construction industry can be workers filling out Causeway’s survey, would like to see mental health issues included in future legislation when it comes to being on site. He said:

“The even longer-term goal of this is to have a voice on a regulatory platform which is government basically.

Health and safety wasn’t an agenda 40 years ago, you could walk on any site wherever you wanted and do pretty well anything you want and if you get out alive then let’s move on to the next day. Now, if you want to tender for a project, you must satisfy the stringent regulations that are set in the procurement bills in the UK that allow you to take people into that environment and take care of them.

You can’t step on site without having the rules and regulations read to you but there is nothing in the procurement regulations, not one line, not one word, that relates to mental health so what we’re talking about here is how do we create an environment within work places that is friendlier to the workforce while being supportive and communicative.”

Source: Liverpool Echo