For years, the LHSFNA and other organizations have talked about the importance of ending the stigma around mental health and creating more positive conversations about mental health in the construction industry. In the future, we may look back on 2022 as an important turning point. More conversations about mental health are happening now than ever before. That’s due in large part to the pandemic’s impact on our collective mental and emotional health, and other factors as well, including increased attention on important social justice issues and a political system that seems more contentious and divided by the day.
The last two years have continued to blur the lines between personal struggles and work pressures, increasing the need for employers to address mental health in the workplace. Recently, more leaders in the construction industry are stepping up their efforts to address mental health and employee well-being on a daily basis. Employers are now recognizing that emotional health issues can impact job performance and their bottom line in a variety of ways and that mental health concerns can last throughout an entire working career if they are not addressed. These efforts are critical in an industry where workers are disproportionately affected by both overdose deaths and deaths by suicide.
It’s encouraging to see such a positive cultural shift in how mental health is finally being addressed in the industry. The next step is to bridge the gap from increasing awareness of the issue and starting conversations to developing interventions, programs and resources that help those affected. So how does an organization that’s ready to change meaningfully support employee mental health in 2022 and beyond?
Mental Health America’s Mind the Workplace 2022 report seeks to answer just that question. Survey findings reveal that important strategies to improve employee mental health outcomes include engagement from company leadership, managerial support and empowering employees. The report also found the following:
- Rates of stress and distraction remain high across all workplaces.
- Mental health awareness is increasing, but there’s still a gap between awareness and employees’ comfort level with coming forward and seeking out workplace resources.
- Managerial support strongly correlates with employee empowerment and positive employee mental health outcomes.
Managers and other leaders don’t need to be therapists or counselors to support workers’ mental health, just as they don’t need to be doctors when someone is physically injured. What they need to do is create an environment where workers feel they can come forward and get help, then know the local or organizational resources available.
Small changes can make a big difference in how mental health and well-being are viewed at an organization.
- Talk about mental health regularly to help break down old stereotypes. Invite conversation and encourage new voices to begin building relationships and a culture of open communication. The LHSFNA has many articles about mental and emotional health that can be a starting point for these discussions.
- Know the available resources you can provide. Understand applicable health insurance coverage, including differences between coverage offered by an employer and through a multiemployer health and welfare fund.
- Take inventory of what your organization already offers, then create a plan to expand from there. Integrate mental health into safety and health discussions already in place, such as toolbox talks, safety orientations and member meetings at union halls.
- Seek outside resources and materials from other organizations with similar goals. For example, the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP) offers a Needs Analysis and Integration Checklist that provides clear and simple steps to help companies address suicide prevention.
We know that workplaces can play an essential role in maintaining positive mental health for employees. They can give people the opportunity to be productive, to be part of a team and to contribute to their community – these all positively affect employee well-being. It only makes sense that we build on these opportunities to promote worker mental health and well-being throughout the construction industry.
[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA’s Director of Health Promotion.]