Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Mental Health in Construction

Mental health is starting to see the attention that it deserves, stepping out of the dark recesses of topics that once weren’t discussed in the open. Probably due to the fear that most have of being ostracized or looked at as flawed or broken. But now, we’re seeing everyone from sports figures to CEOs step into the spotlight with their personal struggles with mental health. Although a step in the right direction, the stigma remains for those in the construction industry. Add to the stigma a culture of self-reliance and heartiness, and you can see why those in this occupational group can find themselves unwilling to reach out for help when they need it.

What some of the statistics say

A 2020 study found that 83% of construction workers have dealt with a mental health issue. On top of that, it is believed that suicide rates have increased due to the negative view the construction sector has about mental health. According to the CDC, the construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicide in comparison to other industries in its study — 53.2 suicides per 100,000 workers. That’s five times greater than all construction fatalities combined!

Substance abuse

Another layer of concern in the mental health of construction workers is substance abuse – from alcohol to prescription and illicit drugs. Around 15% of all construction workers have a substance abuse disorder. Because the industry deals with higher rates of injury and illness, a large amount of opioids are being funneled into this group to help them quickly reduce pain and get back to work. In a study published in 2021 by the CDC, it was noted that 15% of workers who were prescribed opioids became long-term users. What makes this concerning is that opioid dependency increases the likelihood of committing suicide by 75%!

What can be done to help employees

First and foremost is making employees aware that there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help. Here are just a few other things to try:

  • Speak openly about it with employees in company meetings – open discussion can break some of the stigma.
  • Provide mental health benefits in your medical packages and educate your staff on how they can use them.
  • Offer training for managers and employees to help them learn warning signs, and what to do if they see them.
  • Share mental health resources that anyone can easily see and use in private.

Normalizing conversations about mental health must become a priority in the construction industry. Mental health awareness and suicide prevention should be added to employee job safety training to raise awareness of the problem and create a safer culture for all those in this sector. It’s everyone’s responsibility to stay informed and educated to maintain a healthy work environment