Managing Mental Health In The Construction Industry
At Wilson Lumber we put an extraordinary amount of time and attention on safety in the workplace. Safety information is shared regularly, and keeping our employees safe is a top priority. We discuss the physical risks that can happen in and around a lumberyard or on a jobsite such as fall protection, wearing protective safety equipment, how to safely load and unload material, tool safety and other protective protocols. Why? Because the physical dangers in the construction industry are real and can be serious.
But there are other dangers in the construction industry that are not so apparent. Things like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, physical exhaustion, financial stress and suicidal thoughts are as big a threat to worker safety as any tangible job-site accident.
The recent pandemic has exacerbated mental health stress in the construction industry, adding yet another factor to an ever-growing list of psychological and emotionally damaging elements affecting our workforce.
According to a 2015 study by the CDC, the construction and extraction industries have the highest rate of suicide – 53.2 per 100,000 workers. The CDC study, cited on Fieldboss.com, found that the construction industry exhibits many common risk factors that are associated with feelings of helplessness. These include a very competitive, high-pressure work environment, the threat of end-of-season layoffs, high prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse, physical strain and chronic pain caused by manual labor, and travel, which may separate workers from families and friends.
What can homebuilders do?
To improve the health of your workforce and ensure that your company is positioned to recognize these specific challenges, we must prioritize workers’ mental health to the same level as wearing safety goggles and tagging out live circuits.
Here are several suggestions your company can implement right away. First, don’t be afraid to talk about the importance of mental health. This will help remove the negative stigma or stereotypes associated with mental stress. Second, look for warning signs such as a decrease in productivity, tardiness, an increase in conflict with other team members, or sudden isolation from coworkers. These could be signs that an employee needs help or is abusing drugs or alcohol. Third, educate your workforce on stress reducing techniques they can apply to their daily lives.
The best way to help employees who are suffering from mental stress, exhaustion or illness is to help them get the resources they need. Below is a list of resources that provide free confidential support from trained counselors 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Call 1800 (273) TALK
- Crisis Text Line. Text “HOME” to 741741
- Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention
- Covid Coach, a free App on iPhone and Android
World Mental Health Day is October 10. This is a good time for all of us to raise awareness about these challenges and help minimize the risk of mental health illnesses and injuries.