The construction industry is known for drawing workers who thrive in a fast-paced, demanding work environment. But the realities of a challenging workplace can prove to be hazardous to the mental health of those very same workers. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicide, with an average of 53.2 suicides per 100,000 workers.
Among other obstacles, the stigma associated with mental health can make it challenging for construction workers to seek help when faced with anxiety, depression, or other challenges. But it is possible to build a culture of support for mental health in the construction industry – and as with any good build, it’s all about choosing the right strategy.
Obstacle 1: Stigma
Stigma is a significant barrier to seeking mental healthcare in the construction industry. Many workers fear being seen as weak if they disclose their struggles with mental health. Furthermore, the "tough guy" culture so prevalent in the construction industry rewards stoicism and resilience and can exacerbate this stigma.
Strategy: Education and Communication
To combat stigma, construction companies should implement education and communication strategies. These strategies should help workers understand that mental health issues are common and treatable. Companies can also host workshops and training sessions on mental health awareness and provide resources for workers who need help.
Obstacle 2: Access to Care
Another obstacle that construction workers face when seeking mental healthcare is limited access to care. Mental healthcare services can be expensive, and many workers don't have health insurance that covers mental health services. Additionally, workers often have limited time off and may not be able to take time away from work to attend appointments.
Strategy: Resources and Support
To address this issue, construction companies should provide resources and support. This could include providing access to mental health professionals through employee assistance programs, offering flexible scheduling for appointments, and helping workers find affordable mental healthcare services.
Obstacle 3: Lack of Trust
Many construction workers have a deep-seated mistrust of authority figures, such as managers and supervisors. This can make it challenging for workers to feel comfortable disclosing their struggles with mental health.
Strategy: Leadership and Culture
To build trust and create a culture of support, construction companies must prioritize leadership and culture. Managers and supervisors should receive training on mental health awareness and how to support workers who need help. They should also model positive behaviors by openly discussing their own struggles with mental health, if applicable. Additionally, companies should prioritize creating a culture of support and inclusivity, where workers feel valued and respected.
When it comes down to it, it’s the role of everyone in the construction industry to address the mental health challenges facing workers. By implementing education and communication strategies, providing resources and support, and prioritizing leadership and culture, construction companies can create not only a culture of support for mental health but a workforce that does what it came to do – thrive.