Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it is the perfect time to talk about mental health in the construction and contracting industry. The stigma around mental health is slowly being recognized, with many businesses attempting to increase awareness and provide support. Companies have made considerable progress in encouraging and supporting a better work environment.
Unfortunately, mental illness continues to have a significant impact on the construction industry. Working in the building and construction trades has become the United States deadliest occupation. But it isn’t cranes or ladders, nor bad backs or broken bones that get construction workers to sign off. It’s the danger you can’t see. Mental health in the construction industry is not just a silent epidemic but also an invisible health hazard.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), construction has one of the highest suicide rates of any industry, with suicide deaths five times greater than all other construction deaths combined.
Multiple factors, including the following, are believed to contribute to greater suicide rates and mental health concerns in the construction industry:
A competitive, male-dominated work culture, toughness and strength are prized
Stigma and fear of consequences associated with mental health issues, shame and fear of judgment
Seasonal and cyclical work contributing to family and financial strain
High stress and deadline driven work
Limited job control
Long work hours including potential for large volume of overtime leading to fatigue
Separation of family when working away from home
Physical exhaustion due to hard labor
Increase in alcohol and substance abuse
What can be done?
Education is required for both employers and employees in the industry.
Both employers and employees must be able to spot the early signs of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues in their workforce, as well as know what resources are available and how to get them.
This can be accomplished through new training efforts and collaboration with mental health support services to provide information and tools that may save the lives of their employees.
Supervisors and company leaders should also be trained in mental health first aid.
Employers in the construction business must be willing to offer their employees real and practical assistance.
Employers should provide counselling, medication, and other medical assistance to employees as part of their benefits package.
Employees should be encouraged to take mental health days in addition to sick days.
Employers must also assure all employees that their jobs will be waiting for them if they take time to seek mental health therapy.
Empowering workers to seek out resources is a crucial part of every manager or business owner's job. Here are some specific resources to help kick-start a mental health awareness program within your organization:
Construction Financial Management has put together a list of suicide prevention resources tailored to construction workers
The Center for Construction Research and Training also compiled a list of mental health and suicide prevention resources
National Council for Mental Wellbeing: Mental Health First Aid
At FIELDBOSS we believe in advocating for mental health at work. Our goal is to help you manage your business efficiently to reduce stress, so you can free up time to focus on your health and that of your staff.