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What are Mental Health Issues in the Construction Industry?


Metal and behavioral health in the workplace is a real concern for employers. This is especially true in the construction industry. In fact, construction jobs have been shown to account for some of the highest instances of substance abuse and suicide of any industry. The stress of these types of jobs and certain elements of the culture in the industry make for a damaging mix that leaves workers vulnerable to serious mental health issues. Moreover, mental health concerns that have peaked in the general population in the era of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) have increased the dangers for construction workers in particular.

What are the Mental Health Issues Being Observed?

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that, among all workplace deaths, suicide deaths of construction workers occurred more often than all other work-related fatalities combined. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, over the course of the past decade, workers in construction and extraction were most susceptible to suicide, repeatedly accounting for the highest male suicide rate of all occupation categories. The suicide rate in the construction industry is reportedly 43.5 suicides per 100,000 workers. The only industry that has a higher rate is the extraction industry, which includes jobs in oil and gas extraction as well as mining.

What are Leading Causes of Mental Health Issues in the Construction Industry?

Stress associated with hard physical labor and long hours can cause mental health issues. Chronic pain and bodily injuries from such demanding work can lead workers to pain management that might introduce substance issues. The male-dominated culture can make it difficult to seek mental health treatment. Seasonal layoffs experienced by construction workers can cause depression and other negative results.

Why are Mental Health and Behavioral Health Issues an Integral Part of an Employer’s Safety Program?

According to the NAHB, within the construction industry the third leading cause of death is by suicide. The fourth leading cause is unintentional overdose. One of the major insights that has come out of a recent study by MindWise Innovations, a community care initiative, suggested that people who recognize that they may have a mental health issue may not know what they can do to help themselves. Sixty percent of employees with these types of concerns never mention it to anyone at work. Employers can fill that gap by making resources available and educating employees of programs or support services in the area.

How Do Mental Health Issues Affect the Industry?

When employees suffer with mental anguish or repeatedly turn to substances to cope, the results are destructive for the individual, but it also affects the employer and co-workers. In a work setting, the fallout from a situation involving an employee who is dealing with mental health or behavioral health issue can cause issues such as increased absenteeism, lost productivity, high rates of turnover, or an increased risk of work accidents.

What Psychological Disorders are Displayed by Construction Workers?

In addition to the dangers of suicide, the issue of addiction is prominent in the construction industry. Other mental health-related concerns among workers include stress, depression, job anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially after a work accident. However, the most common mental or behavioral health issue found in the construction community is addiction.

How Does Construction Industry Culture Create an Environment for Mental Health Problems?

Stress and work culture are two of the most cited elements that make it difficult for construction industry workers to maintain mental health balance. The work culture can be affected positively by making mental health a priority as a topic for discussion among staff and management. Working against the stigma associated with these issues, it can be a hugely beneficial shift for construction workers and industry personnel to feel safe treating mental health and behavioral health as natural and worthy subjects for discussion.

Things that get in the way for employees who need help are hurdles such as the expectation that they should be tough and self-reliant, rather than seeking the help of a professional to work out such personal issues. There is also a discomfort with admitting to the problem in the first place. Also problematic is a pervasive opinion that one should just deal with their problem, which can easily translate into behaviors that cause sufferers to turn to alcohol, drugs, or other substances as an acceptable way to cope with stress and mental suffering.

What Types of Incidents or Concerns Threaten Workers’ Mental Health?

Construction industry workers may suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or mood disorders, such as bipolar disorders and eating disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder is another possible condition that might affect workers, especially those who may have witnessed a work-related accident and are finding it difficult to work in the environment where the incident took place. Finally, the issue of substance misuse is pervasive in our culture, particularly in the construction industry. Alcohol or drug misuse can interfere with work and other aspects of life for the person suffering from addiction and displaying related dangerous behaviors.

How can Employers Better Understand Substance Abuse to Assist Their Affected Employees?

Mental health and addiction experts suggest that employers should begin to see addiction as a chronic health problem that is too often stigmatized and dismissed as a character flaw. Like other chronic illnesses such as asthma or heart disease, addiction cannot be cured, but it can be managed with treatment in order to allow the person living with addiction to lead a normal, healthy life.

What can Employers Do to Address Mental Health Issues?

Employers can fight the stigma of seeking out mental health treatment by making it part of the conversation. Making mental health a priority for employees can mean educating them on the ways they may experience stress, anxiety, trauma, and addiction. It can also be useful to equate mental health with overall health. Giving workers the space and language to talk about their struggles can be an enormous relief, making it easier for them to accept the help they need. Investing energy in refuting unhealthy ideas of being tough and refusing help can reverse cultural trends and allow workers to open up to receiving the help they need.

What Industry Leaders are Offering Help to Employers in the Construction Industry?

The NAHB has created a Toolbox Talk, a report for industry leaders and construction community members to use as a resource to help address the culture and resistance issues that stand in the way of people seeking and obtaining the help they need to make the industry stronger, down to each valued individual. The report has useful information for construction workers, management, and employers for how to recognize different mental health issues, and it provides suggestions for how to discuss the topic.

Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Represent Workers in Need of Mental Health Coverage

If you are experiencing work-related stress, depression, job anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or another mental health issue associated with your occupation, you should be able to count on your employer to provide coverage for the treatment you need to get well. The Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC will fight to help you obtain the mental health care and the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 302-888-1221 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, Newark, and Middletown.