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Iconic wooden sculpture heads to Kent to highlight importance of mental wellbeing in construction

Northfleet promotes positive mental health

An iconic wooden sculpture designed to raise awareness of mental health issues has been re-erected at a construction site in Kent to highlight the importance of mental wellbeing in the construction industry.

‘Head Above Water’, which previously stood at Gabriel’s Wharf in the heart of London, has been relocated to a Northfleet site that provides materials and logistical support for London’s new super sewer - under construction to tackle sewage discharges into the River Thames.

Steuart Padwick’s wooden sculpture stands at nine metres tall and was initially created to support a Time to Change campaign aimed at encouraging more people to talk about and address issues associated with mental health.

Phil Dupree, Logistics and Transhipment Manager for Tideway, the company building the 25km super sewer under the Thames, said: “I’m delighted that Head Above Water now has pride of place at Northfleet. Mental health is an incredibly important issue and it’s something that needs as much exposure as possible, especially within the construction industry. Male site workers are three times more likely to die by suicide than the average UK male.”

Tideway’s Northfleet team is focused on improving mental health and encouraging conversation in the industry. The site includes an herb garden, a greenhouse made from reused water bottles and a rudimentary pizza oven, as well as vegetable patches and seating areas overlooking the Thames. A disused shipping container has also been transformed into a gym.

Phil added: “At this site we’re putting a lot of effort into raising awareness of mental health issues. We have two mental health first aiders who always have their doors open, but they do more than listen. They provide encouragement, support and advice. We’re definitely going about things the right way here, and I’m proud of what we’re doing.”

Steuart, who visited Northfleet following the artwork’s relocation, said: “I’m thrilled that the sculpture has been rebuilt at Tideway’s Northfleet site. Before I started on the Head Above Water journey I knew almost nothing about Tideway, and it has been a privilege to get to know members of the Tideway community. The care and respect they have for each other is wonderful, and their approach to mental health is inspiring.”

Tideway works closely with the charity Mates in Mind and has rolled out ‘Start the Conversation’ training across all of Tideway, which aims to encourage conversations around mental health and wellbeing.

There are also a large number of trained Mental Health First Aiders across the project, and every site has at least one Mental Health First Aider that people can talk to. The company has organised a week of activities around World Mental Health Day on Thursday (10 October), including meditation sessions, health checks with nurses and slots with trained counsellors.