Almost 30 years ago when I started my career in the construction industry, mental health was rarely talked about.
It was encouraged for people to “tough it out” and “just deal with it,” despite the long hours, high pressure and sometimes stressful environments. Talking about mental health was taboo, leaving many workers to struggle in silence.
Fortunately, in recent years awareness has increased, and people recognize that mental health poses just as much risk to employees as any physical hazard on a jobsite.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the construction industry has the second-highest rate of suicide among workers in the U.S. at 45.3 per 100,000 workers. This sobering statistic underscores a mental health crisis that demands attention.
In September, Denver-based PCL Construction offices across the country joined forces with other industry organizations to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental well-being.
Post pandemic, 81% of workplaces are now focusing more on mental health—and PCL is leading the way in the conversation.
Addressing the topic starts the minute a new employee walks in the door by outlining mental health resources during employee onboarding.
Additionally, we are empowering our leaders to engage in more candid conversations around mental health. During “toolbox talks,” crews often start their day talking about mental health, making these conversations not only acceptable but essential while on the job.
These conversations include educating workers on signs of distress, mental health issues and possible suicide risks so they can help someone in need.
“Showing compassion for one another and supporting mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.”
Our commitment to mental health doesn’t stop there. We’ve reevaluated our existing mental health resources and will launch a new program designed to enhance accessibility to mental health professionals and broaden the array of available resources.
These resources will help employees build resilience to cope with stress and adversity, benefiting both salaried and hourly workers.
In an industry known for its toughness, we’re choosing to foster a culture of empathy and vulnerability. We believe that showing compassion for one another and supporting mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Especially in construction where mental health is not widely talked about, it’s crucial for industry leaders to use their voice, encourage an open dialogue amongst employees and advocate for change.
Suicide prevention in construction requires a collective effort, and it begins with offering the right education, support and a caring community.
Additionally, through open conversations, training, resources and extensive wellness programs, companies can break the silence and show their commitment to addressing mental health challenges on and off the jobsite.