The State of Mental Health in Construction
POSTED ON May 1, 2023 | BY Zters
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we think it’s important to acknowledge.
Over 50 million Americans were recorded as experiencing mental illness between 2019 and 2020. Generally accepted as a major part of overall wellness, mental health is essential–making self-care and treatment as necessary as brushing your teeth and exercising.
However, due largely to stigma and gender stereotypes, mental health challenges go undiscussed and untreated. The consequences are harmful and in some cases, fatal.
Mental health in construction is especially glaring. A 2020 study found that 83% of construction industry workers have experienced some form of moderate to severe mental health issues.
Considering our longtime relationship with the construction industry, we are deeply invested in the wellbeing of construction professionals. At the end of the day, there can be no healthy workforce if the workers themselves are not healthy.
The following post contains mention of suicide.
Mental Health in Construction Statistics
Numbers speak volumes about the issue at hand. There are a litany of studies centered around mental health in the construction industry. Here are some key statistics:
- Nearly 60% of construction workers reported struggling with mental health, but only a third said they would communicate this to their employers
- In 2012 and 2015, suicide rates were highest among men in Construction and Extraction occupations (43.6 and 53.2 per 100,000 workers, respectively)
- Men commit suicide at a rate approximately 4 times higher than women; men make up close to 94% of the US construction sector
- The number of construction workers abusing prescription opioids is estimated at 3.2 percent versus 2 percent of the general population (similar ratios are seen in cocaine and mariuana use)
What Affects the Mental Health of Construction Professionals?
It’s difficult to pin down the most significant impact on mental health in the construction industry. The many reasons for mental health challenges vary from person to person and can come from many different facets of life such as relationships, lack of a support system, traumatic experiences, financial insecurity, feelings of isolation, and countless others.
However, the demanding nature of construction work can undoubtedly worsen existing mental health struggles or lead to their formation. Some truths about the construction industry that may lead to poor mental health include:
- Extensive, irregular working hours
- Chronic pain and injury
- Physical exhaustion from manual labor
- Pressure to meet deadlines
- Burnout and stress
- Heightened substance abuse
- Competitive, male-dominated work culture
- Seasonal layoffs
How We Can Address Mental Health in Construction
Talk about it
One of the biggest ways to address mental health is to normalize conversations around it. A simple check-in with a co-worker, friend, or family member can allow for opportunities to express difficult feelings.
People often cite feeling like a burden so they shy away from sharing their feelings. Starting that conversation can create a more welcoming space for people to be honest about what’s going on.
Lastly, there’s a common misconception that talking about suicide will put ideas in someone’s mind, but that’s not the case. Talking about suicide opens up communication and can make people feel less alone.
Recognize the signs
Not only is it important to recognize signs of declining mental health in others, but it’s also essential to recognize those signs in yourself. Early recognition can lead to early intervention, which can be life-saving.
Some common signs include:
- Isolating from friends and family
- Dramatic changes in weight or appetite
- Poor hygiene
- Problems sleeping
- Noticeable and persistent irritability and/or sadness
- Rapid speech and thoughts
- Excessive spending
- Trouble concentrating
Inform others about the disproportionate rates of mental health challenges in the construction industry. There’s so much information available online and we’ve included some here. There are undeniable correlations between working in the construction sector and experiencing mental health issues.
Know & share resources
Think of mental health resources as tools in your toolbelt. There are a wealth of resources for people who are struggling. Among these, there are resources tailored to specific experiences such as substance abuse or domestic violence. Here are just a few:
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- American Psychiatric Association
- The NAMI HelpLine, Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), text “HelpLine” to 62640
Practice & encourage self-care
Self-care is an integral part of strong mental health. It’s not just face masks and bubble baths (although those can be great, too). Self-care means taking care of your mind, body, and soul through nourshing activities.
Self-care looks different for everyone. It could be spending time with loved ones, enjoying nature, meditating, creating art, practicing a hobby, watching your favorite movies or TV shows, etc.
Putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others isn’t just for flying. It’s important to care for yourself. It’s also important to look out for those around you and extend empathy. Even if you don’t feel well-equipped to have conversations around mental health, there are resources you can turn to for help.
If you or someone you know is struggling, call or text 988. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Available 24/7 across the United States. Support is also available via live chat at 988lifeline.org.