Poor mental health in the construction industry has been described as “the silent epidemic” that caused 454 construction workers to take their own lives in 2016. During the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s first annual Construction Conference, experts agreed that depression, stress-related work, anxiety, and pressure are the leading causes of workplace-related health issues, much more than musculoskeletal disorders.
Construction companies must not only safeguard the physical health of those who work with roller compactors, for example. They must also ensure that their mental well-being is protected from any stress and depression. One company reported that they were able to reduce stress-related work absences by 93% through their efforts to protect the mental welfare of their construction workers.
Male Construction Workers Face Stigma
Male construction workers are at higher risk of suicide because social stigma stops them from opening to co-workers and families about their thoughts of suicide. They also don’t seek counseling for their mental problems. In the UK, one of every six male construction employees is dealing with anxiety and depression associated with their jobs.
Some of the reasons for the depression and anxiety in the construction industry in recent years are a competitive and high-pressure work environment, alcohol and drug abuse, separation from their families, and end-of-contract layoffs. These are also the same reasons why there is an increase in absences—30% told their employees that the reason for their absences was work-related stress, but 63% did not divulge their reasons.
Even in the 21st century, mental health is still not an issue that people can freely talk about. Males, in particular, do not seek therapy sessions and do not consult professionals about helping them deal with their feelings of inadequacies.
The Construction Industry Is Taking Notice
In the last couple of years, the construction industry has started to take notice of the mental issues in the workplace. Organizations are now finding ways to help their workers open up about their mental health problems. They offer counseling services and stress questionnaires to gauge the psychological well-being of their employees. They have programs that are tailor-fit to address the issues of at-risk employees.
The effect is revolutionizing. Companies that take a stand against mental health problems have seen a reduction in absences, stress-related illnesses, and thoughts and risks of suicide and depression. The fact that celebrities are opening about their struggles with mental health issues also helped bring the message forward: It is okay to be depressed, but you need to work with your therapists and families to overcome this feeling.
Often, organizations that have reservations about the validity of their workers’ mental health problems need an alarming wake-up call, such as the suicide of one of their team members. The sense of frustration will eventually push them to tackle the challenges of mental well-being in the construction industry.
It takes less than a minute to ask a co-worker how he’s doing. Whether or not you’re working in the construction industry, you should look out for yourself and your co-workers, too. Be a friend to everyone. You never know the things they are dealing with internally. A simple gesture can go a long way toward saving them from their thoughts.