May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health issues impact people in all industries, and they don’t discriminate because of race, gender, wealth, religion, or any other factor. Most of us will go through a mental health crisis at some point during our lives either due to a relationship, a death or ongoing stresses in life.
The construction and building fields are rife with times of high pressure, from deadlines to dangers on construction sites, to ever changing plans. Addressing mental health issues on the job can make a big difference in people’s lives in the construction industry, which is the second worst industry for suicide rates (behind mining) in the United States.
The question isn’t when someone on your team is going to need to seek mental health assistance; it’s what you can do to help them. While seeking mental health care is more accepted in today’s society, many people are hesitant to seek help given the perceived stigma they believe is associated with counseling or other treatments. But whether you’re at a construction site, at a shop or in an office, you can help people improve their mindset in four ways:
1. Recognize stress
As mentioned, people in the construction industry deal with recurring points of stress, from deadlines to major installations to a regular stream of changes – and that’s just stressors on the job. A key to improving mental health is recognizing how that stress impacts you and your colleagues and encouraging people (including yourself) to find appropriate outlets to relieve stress.
2. Promote job fulfillment
A little praise goes a long way. Whether you’re talking to a subordinate, a superior or a peer, telling him or her you appreciate the work they’re doing can not only improve their mental health but their happiness with their career. Conversely, constructive criticism provided in a supportive, not demeaning, manner helps people grow and improve their work.
3. Utilize available assistance
Most health benefit plans – either through an employer or from a trade union’s health and welfare fund – provide access to professional counselors for long-term treatment or even a 24-hour helpline to address physical and mental health questions. Employers and contractors should be encouraged to promote these resources in the office and on the jobsite.
4. Look in a mirror
Oftentimes, the person in need of mental health assistance is the person we see in the mirror. And frequently, it is our own stigmatization of seeking help that prevents us from getting the assistance we not only need, but truly want. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or troubled, understand that there are people there to help.
It’s important to remember that mental health issues go well beyond what happens on the job, although they may manifest through inattention to detail, short tempers, depression, and other outward behaviors that show up onsite.
To learn more about how mental health issues impact the construction industry, listen to Episode 86 of the Bridging the Gap podcast from Applied Software, available wherever you access podcasts.
 “Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation — National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016“ https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6903a1.htm