Mental health can affect anyone, and the construction industry is no exception. Many people in the construction industry struggle with their mental health, which can affect their personal lives and ability to perform at work.
Depression, anxiety and suicide are common in the construction industry, especially with the various risk factors that uniquely impact the industry. Improving your employees' mental health is essential to show them you care and ensure they have healthy careers. Below, you'll learn about the importance of mental health and well-being in the construction industry and how you can help improve your employees' mental health.
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Mental health conditions are as serious as physical hazards in the workplace. Mental health issues are gradually increasing, and as many as 83% of construction workers have struggled with mental health conditions. Some factors contributing to increasing mental health problems in the construction industry include the pandemic, financial hardship and job insecurity. Even people who seem happy on the outside could be struggling with mental health issues that aren't obvious to their employers or co-workers.
The construction industry has the highest rate of suicide compared to other sectors. Around 53 workers die by suicide for every 100,000, which is significantly higher than in other industries. You should take the risk of suicide very seriously to ensure you take the appropriate measures to protect workers.
Construction workers are also prone to binge drinking and substance misuse. Substance use problems often coincide with mental health conditions. They can worsen symptoms and are used as a way to self-medicate. Substance misuse contributes to two risk factors: deteriorating mental health and impaired safety on the job. As a result of substance use, many construction workers are experiencing worsening mental health symptoms, which contributes to suicide rates and the development of various mental health conditions.
Many construction workers struggle with mental health, and many often go without support from their workplace. However, when you use the appropriate methods, you can help improve the mental health of your employees at your construction company, which is essential for employee morale and health.
Mental health challenges affect every industry but are extremely common in construction. There are several risk factors affecting the prevalence of mental health in the construction industry:
Construction workers who feel they lack control at work may be at a higher risk of mental illness. Some examples of a lack of job control include the following:
Lack of job control can increase depression rates, resulting in feelings of hopelessness or an inability to control their life and career.
Work hazards, such as work-related injuries, illness and chronic pain, can contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause depression and anxiety. Physical illness or pain can cause a person to develop depression and suicidal ideation if a person's life is drastically affected by the work-related injury or sickness. Mental distress can also cause pain in various locations in the body, contributing to worsening mental health. Preexisting mental health conditions can also contribute to muscle pain, worsening mental health.
Welfare concerns include various risk factors regarding a person's well-being and can lead to the following:
People with the above risk factors can have higher rates of anxiety and depression. When a person feels unsure about their career or financial status, the stress can manifest into depression or anxiety symptoms. For example, if a person experiences job or economic insecurity, they could worry about their ability to care for their family or the potential for unemployment, which can worsen a person's mental health.
Some construction workers who have faced or currently face workplace injustice can be at a greater risk for mental health disorders. Some examples of workplace injustice include:
Workplace injustices can also include lower pay for women in the industry and harassment from their coworkers, contributing to worsening mental health. As a result, more female construction workers face higher levels of depression and anxiety due to workplace injustices and psychological strain.
Job demand is related to work overload, work hours each week, the nature of the work, work speed and the need for recovery. Workers on the job for more than 60 hours with increasing physical demands can experience higher levels of stress and fatigue, which can be risk factors for conditions like depression and anxiety. Suicidal ideation is also possible from increasing job demands, especially when working work over 60 hours a week and in physically demanding jobs.
Construction workers' family relationships and work-life balance can contribute to worsening mental health. If construction workers are spending more time at work than they are with their families and aren't able to keep up with their personal responsibilities, it can cause more stress which can contribute to anxiety and depression. Combined with job demand, lack of job control and welfare concerns, separation from family can worsen mental health issues.
A lack of support from management or supervisors can cause a worker to feel more stress at work, worsening mental health issues. If workers feel they can't get the support they need from management to handle the other risk factors, they can experience worsening anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. It's essential to support workers in navigating their challenges and improving their mental well-being.
Construction workers experiencing the above risk factors may turn to coping strategies. While some of these coping strategies can be positive, some construction workers use negative coping strategies, such as alcohol and substances. The idea is that these substances can help them cope with the stress from their work, but the reality is that using alcohol and substances can contribute to worsening mental health.
These substances mask the problem rather than solve it. As a result, mental health can get worse, especially since drugs and alcohol can cause mental illness and make existing conditions worse. Alcohol and drug use can also make work unsafe on construction sites if workers start showing up under the influence. The risk of injury and work-related accidents can increase, becoming another risk factor for mental health conditions.
Improving the mental health of your employees should be one of your main priorities. Poor mental health in the workplace can be a safety risk, and caring for your employees can help protect their well-being. Improving mental health also makes good business sense. Improving mental health in construction leads to the following:
Of course, the most significant benefit of improving mental health is protecting your workers from harm. However, there are many other benefits of improving mental health within your construction business.
Now that you know how improving mental health in the construction industry can benefit your business, it's time to take the necessary steps to help your workers. Improving mental health requires the proper initiatives, education and culture change to help workers feel more comfortable and supported in their work environment. Below are some ways to improve mental health in the construction industry.
One of the most effective things you can do to help improve the mental health of your workers is to provide education. Making progress is challenging when there's no culture change in the workplace. Educating your employees about mental health can help you move toward reducing the stigma regarding these conditions. Reducing stigma through education also makes it easier for workers to come forward and may help some workers realize that they're struggling with a mental health condition they didn't know much about.
You can also research mental health outreach programs and make them available to workers. For example, having the Suicide Prevention Hotline available and posted around the workplace can make a significant difference and is a resource that can save a person's life. Other resources are available, such as mental health training, support networks and certified mental health professionals that your workers can talk to when they feel down.
Another factor you should focus on in your construction business is awareness. First, you should highlight how often mental health affects people in the construction industry and what they can do to seek help. You should encourage employees to share their mental health issues with you since you can't help someone if you don't know they're struggling.
You can store your employees' mental health information along with other critical medical information. While it can be challenging for employees to be forthcoming about their mental health, fostering an understanding and safe work culture will make employees more likely to open up in the future.
Another way you can improve mental health in the construction industry is by learning how to spot the signs of someone struggling with mental health conditions. While education and awareness can go a long way, there are still times when mental health will go unreported, which is why it helps to know the signs so you can offer help to employees.
Some signs of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts can look like the following:
If you notice any of these signs in your workers, you should reach out to them to determine if they're struggling with mental health and how you can help. Monitoring your employees' symptoms can go a long way in improving mental health in your construction business.
Due to the rate of mental illness, suicide and substance use in the construction industry, some workplace cultures don't support their employees' mental health. Employers can take steps to improve the health of their workplace culture, which includes:
Learning how to integrate mental health practices in the workplace can help improve overall well-being while helping employees feel more supported and heard. These effects can also have a long-lasting positive impact on workers, including improving morale, productivity and working relationships.
Stress can be one of the leading causes of mental health challenges in the workplace. When workers feel stressed, they're more likely to experience depression and anxiety, which can worsen over time and turn into suicidal ideation or substance misuse. Stress can also affect a person's physical well-being, contributing to chronic pain.
Construction is considered a high-stress industry since workers often work long hours with intense physical labor, labor shortages and harsh weather conditions. The stress from work can carry over into a person's home life, increasing the risk of mental health struggles. Employers should help their workers combat stress so that they feel better coming to work and don't carry their work problems into their personal lives.
Some ways to help reduce stress include:
If an employee seems more stressed, you should communicate with them to determine how you can help them with their stress, whether by offering resources, reducing their workload or finding new ways to solve problems.
As mentioned, construction workers are prone to substance and alcohol use to cope with their stress and mental health struggles. Substance use can significantly impact a person's mental health, whether it worsens conditions or creates depression and anxiety. Employers can take certain steps to combat substance and alcohol use and encourage construction workers to use positive methods to cope with their mental health instead.
One way to combat unhealthy substance use is by instating substance use policies, including regular substance testing or required educational training. You can also offer incentives to reduce alcohol and substance use. On top of incentives, you can offer resources to help employees receive support, such as counseling and rehabilitation programs, as well as other evidence-based resources. These resources and treatments can help them get to the root cause of their substance use and find other methods to cope with their mental health.
Communication can help employees improve their mental health and well-being. Employees should have an open line of communication with their management to discuss their mental health challenges and find solutions to help them manage their symptoms.
For example, you should allow your employees to discuss their mental health with you openly. You should also allow them to provide feedback that gets addressed or acknowledged, allowing them to feel heard and know that something will be done to help them. You should also encourage open communication between employees daily, so they know what's going on at all times and can report problems if something happens.
You can implement various measures to improve daily onsite safety. Taking steps to provide these training and resources shows your employees that you care about their well-being and safety. You should try to do everything you can to keep your workers safe while their on the job, which can reduce stress, improve morale and lead to better mental health.
You can help implement safety measures by using safety resources and training videos. You can also utilize mobile solutions with built-in tools that allow your workers to access their resources when needed. These resources can help improve confidence and lower stress levels since they feel better equipped to handle their work responsibilities.
You can utilize wellness programs to help educate your employees about mental health and get them excited about improving the mental health culture of the workplace. These programs can help change how your employees work and respond to challenges in their work.
Wellness programs allow employees to access the necessary tools to identify when they or their co-workers struggle with mental health issues. These programs can also help reduce the shame and stigma associated with mental health, encouraging employees to ask for mental health help when needed.
All of the programs and resources you provide should be helpful to employees, which is why it can be useful to enlist the help of mental health professionals. A professional can help ensure your programs have the proper resources and tools to provide real help to your employees.
Additionally, you could provide professional resources to employees so they can seek guidance from mental health professionals. For example, you can utilize union Member Assistance Programs (MAP) and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to cover mental health care costs, allowing employees access to trained therapists and other mental health services.
If you don't have access to these services, you can provide employees with lifelines and text lines, which are numbers employees can use to get in touch with a trained crisis counselor at any time of the day. For example, you can have the suicide hotline number posted around the worksite so employees can access it if needed.
Providing professional guidance and resources for employees is vital for helping them find help when they're struggling with mental health symptoms. Employees will appreciate your effort and know you care, improving employee morale and productivity. Employees who are cared for will perform better, helping your business thrive.
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