The physical demands of construction labor can take their toll on the mental health of workers in this industry and can lead to psychological damage in addition to serious physical injury.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration gathered data revealing that 15% of workers in the construction industry suffer from substance abuse, and 12% of workers from an alcohol abuse disorder.
Prioritizing mental health in the construction industry is critical. Workers are more productive and safer when they are both physically and mentally able to complete work. When we build a foundation of well-being, we are protecting our employees and allowing the construction industry to thrive.
How to Address Mental Health in the Construction Industry
Prioritizing mental health not only keeps your employees safe and promotes a healthy jobsite, but it can also increase productivity and make your construction business more attractive to workers. Here are a few ideas to address mental health.
1. Promote conversations from the top down
According to a study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, the number one reason employees don’t seek help is because of shame and stigma (78%), followed by fear of judgment from their peers (77%). To destigmatize mental health in this industry, it must start at the top. Leaders should be starting conversations about mental health to create an environment in which employees feel safe and comfortable being vulnerable.
The third most common reason employees don’t seek help is “fear of negative job consequences” (55%). As leaders, make it clear to your employees that their job is not in danger if they ask for help.
2. Model healthy behavior
It is extremely important to be a good role model for your employees. If employees hear you openly talk about mental health, they are more likely to feel comfortable doing that as well. If your employees watch you take appropriate time off for vacations, they are also more likely to.
Consider implementing “mental health days” at your company. Simply designate a different day for each employee to enjoy a paid day off, allowing them to unwind and recharge.
3. Check in with your employees
A Harvard Business Review study found that about 40% of employees have not been checked in on by anyone at their company. Encourage your employees to openly share their thoughts and create conversations with them. Ask them if they are doing okay and, more importantly, care about their answer. Listen to their concerns and ask questions so you can understand how to better support them. Go beyond a simple, “How are you?”
4. Create a safe culture
Lead with empathy. Encourage conversations about feedback and create a sense of belonging within your company. This environment will encourage your employees to feel like they can safely reach out for help if they need it. As important as it is for employees to trust their leaders, it is also important for employees to trust each other. By creating a psychologically safe work environment, your employees are also more likely to reach out to each other to voice their opinions and feelings.
Implement policies that create a safe culture and acknowledge that mental health is the top priority. Create a culture of learning. Encourage questions and challenge the status quo. This not only leads to a psychologically safe environment, but it also drives innovation, which also helps your business.
Training your employees, managers, and leaders to be able to recognize the signs of someone in need of support is crucial. Consider creating a designated mental health person or team to conduct personal check-ins weekly and offer intentional listening sessions. This will help to make your employees feel safe, comfortable, and cared for.
6. Provide mental health resources
Providing education and resources about mental health to your employees is another way to create a psychologically safe work environment. By making resources available and easily accessible, your employees will be more likely to reach out when they need help because they know where to go.
Consider taking a day out of the year to take your team to a mental health seminar or offer online mental health courses for your employees to take. Provide the names and contact information of your mental health support team, and if you don’t have one, recommend them to a trained professional. Consider partnering with a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about mental health in the construction industry, like the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Prioritize Mental Health in the Construction Industry
Destigmatizing mental health in the construction industry will take time, effort, and hard conversations. However, it is imperative to invest in creating a psychologically safe environment. Encouraging conversations, acknowledging the unique challenges in the construction industry, and providing resources are the necessary steps to doing so.
Mental safety and health on the jobsite are just as important as physical safety, especially in an industry that hasn’t prioritized mental health in the past. When mental health is addressed, your employees will feel more comfortable when they come to work. They will be more efficient, more productive, and more excited to work with the team.
Remember, the first step toward positive change begins with the courage to start the conversation.
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (call, chat or text): 988
Veterans Crisis Line (call, chat or text): 1-800-273-8255, Press 1 or https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor