5 Ways to Improve Mental Health Issues in the Construction Industry - Hammr
Power tool injuries.
Unmarked danger zones.
These are probably some of the first things that come to mind when you think of the dangers of construction sites.
But have you ever considered the hazards you can't see — like your team’s mental health?
Your workforce is the most valuable asset to your business. But even if one member of your team struggles with their mental health, your whole company could suffer.
Are you wanting to learn more about how to improve your team's mental health? We dig up why mental health in the construction industry is an issue and how you can help.
Be sure to listen to our Bred to Build podcast episode that discusses mental health in the construction industry. This episode features a fantastic conversation with Garrett Davis, owner of G.W. Davis Co.
Table of Contents
- Why Is Poor Mental Health a Problem in the Construction Industry?
- The Results of Poor Mental Health in the Construction Industry
- What Are the Warning Signs Surrounding Construction Workers’ Mental Health?
- 5 Ways to Improve and Prevent Mental Health Issues in the Construction Industry
- Hammr: Building the Professional Online Community for the Construction Industry
Anyone in the construction industry understands why it’s considered one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S.
Heavy-duty stressors, such as …
- Industry competition
- Separation from family when working remotely
- Fear of layoffs and the inability to provide
- Exhaustion from long hours
- Chronic pain
- Stigma surrounding mental health
- Fear of judgment
- Appearing “weak;” and
- Fear of consequences
... can cause even the most experienced construction worker’s mental health to waver.
Increased Risk of Injuries
One of the outcomes of poor mental health in construction workers is the’ inability to perform their jobs at a high skill level.
Anxiety and depression — paired with high-stress workdays — result in exhausted employees who are much more prone to making mistakes, increasing the possibility of:
- Legal implications for your business
When you add into the equation …
- Electrical work
- Power tools
- The handling of heavy machinery; and
- Working on projects far above the ground
… the effects of poor mental health become a very real hazard on construction sites.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
A study performed by the Centers for Disease Control revealed that construction workers have a higher tendency towards alcohol and drug abuse — particularly cocaine, marijuana, and opioids.
The number of construction workers using nonmedical marijuana is estimated at 12.3%, vs. 7.5% in the general population.
Similar proportions were found with prescription opioid use (3.2% vs. 2%) and cocaine use (1.8% vs. 0.8%).
Construction is already one of the most dangerous industries, but the abuse of drugs and alcohol only increases the potential for injury.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, showed that the construction industry has a suicide rate approximately four times greater than the national average — 53.2 suicides per every 100,000 workers.
This number is five times greater than all other construction industry fatalities combined.
Whether you’re the owner of the business, a safety manager, foreman, equipment operator, or laborer, it is your responsibility on-site to keep your co-workers safe.
To do that effectively, everyone must understand the warning signs of someone struggling with their mental health.
According to the Construction Industry Alliance For Suicide Prevention, some signs of serious depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts in the workplace may include things such as:
- Decreased productivity
- Feeling sad or angry most of the time
- Extreme mood swings
- Talking about wanting to die
- Decreased self-confidence
- Frequently late to or absent from work
- Defensive when confronted with an issue
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Sleeping too much, or not enough
- Feeling agitated or overly anxious
- Withdrawing from others
- Increased conflict with co-workers
- Near or frequent accidents
- Decreased problem-solving skills
- Asking for money
#1: Remove the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
Fear of rejection.
Harmful depictions in the media.
The stigma (discriminatory or negative attitudes) around mental health problems is often prevalent and pronounced, and may lead to:
- Reluctance to seek out treatment
- Increased feelings of shame and self-doubt
- Delayed treatment
- Social rejection
- The further worsening of mental outlook
- Misunderstandings among friends and family
- Harassment, bullying, or violence
- Poor quality of life
The construction industry is one of the highest male-dominated sectors of the workforce, and construction workers have the image of being strong, mentally tough, and invincible.
Couple that perception with the stigma surrounding mental health — and you have a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, times are beginning to change.
Mental health is becoming more spoken about in the media. People are more willing to talk about their personal struggles, and options for support are more readily available than ever before.
#2: Provide Education
One of the most powerful ways to fight mental health problems is through education.
Every person on the job, regardless of their position or title, should be educated in:
- The signs and symptoms of mental health problems
- How to recognize whether issues are temporary or more severe
- Self-care activities that can help improve mental health.
- How to fight the stigma of mental health
- How to start a conversation with someone who is displaying signs of mental distress
- The resources available to those who are struggling with mental health concerns
With this type of education, we will be one step closer to conquering the epidemic of poor mental health in the construction industry.
#3: Build a Better Culture for Your Team
Another critical factor in improving mental health in construction is providing a more supportive work environment — and it needs to be done from the top down.
Business owners should take the extra time to invest in their workforce, making a point to keep the communication lines wide open.
Be approachable, empathetic, and willing to focus on more than just productivity.
Regularly check in with your crew members, one-on-one, and make an effort to understand what takes place in their lives outside the jobsite.
What are their hobbies? Family dynamics? Goals in life?
The time you spend building your workforce and creating a better culture for your people will be well worth the investment.
#4: Provide Resources for Help
If you or someone on your team is struggling emotionally or has concerns about someone else’s mental health, there are ways to get help.
If someone is in immediate danger, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
Here is a list of resources that may also prove helpful to someone dealing with mental health issues:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454, or Lifeline Chat on the web.
This free, confidential crisis service is available to anyone 24/7. The Lifeline Cat connects the caller to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network for crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
- Crisis Text Line: simply text “HELLO” to 741741
This hotline is available 24/7 throughout the U.S. and serves anyone in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor for support and more information.
- Construction Working Minds: Construction Working Minds seeks to increase suicide awareness within the construction industry and provides resources aimed at prevention.
- Construction Industry Alliance For Suicide Prevention (CIASP): CIASP offers tools and resources to professionals in the construction industry with the focus of helping achieve the goal of a suicide-free industry.
#5: Alcoholics Anonymous
For more than 80 years, Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) has been helping alcoholics solve their drinking problems.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a community of like-minded men and women who come together in a spirit of accountability to solve their drinking problems.
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are free to attend and there is no education or age requirement to participate. Membership is available for anyone who wants to overcome their addiction.
An A.A. member’s primary goal is to stay sober and help others walk the road of sobriety.
Alcoholics Anonymous is designed to be a lifelong commitment. Once someone has overcome their addiction, they remain within the group's fellowship to avoid relapsing and help others overcome their addictions.
Are you looking for a place to connect with other trade professionals in the construction industry?
Introducing Hammr, the construction app that allows you to:
- Build your career
- Get advice from others in the industry
- Discover trades from all over the world
- Receive support and understanding
- Get ideas and inspiration
- Find community and camaraderie
- Build your digital resume; and
- Seek potential hires
At Hammr, we’re building the workforce that builds the world.