When thinking of health protections in the construction industry, it may surprise many to learn that the industry is helping to lead the charge in mental health awareness and care. Safety concerns are not just limited to reflective vests and hard hats on a job site.
In an industry that has a higher-than-average likelihood of mental illness, companies are taking action to make sure that workers have access to both daily care and long-term protection.
The prevalence of mental illness in America is no small matter: one in four people will suffer some degree of mental illness during their lives, and one in twenty five will be severely disabled by it. And, demographically, construction is particularly prone to it. Construction jobs are still primarily made up of younger men, and suicide remains the second-leading cause of death for males 25 to 54. People in high-stakes and high-skill jobs are 50% more likely to commit suicide, as are those without college education. Add to that an ingrained culture where talking about feelings isn’t encouraged, and the whole profession looks like a bomb waiting to go off.
But the situation isn’t as dire as it appears—or, rather, it isn’t as dire because of how dangerous it looks. The industry has recently taken steps to make sure that mental health is addressed. The Construction Industry Blueprint sets a goal of zero suicides, and lays out a pathway to get there: after laying out risk factors (such as a culture of substance abuse, lack of community in the workplace, sleep disruption, access to lethal means, and much more), the blueprint lays out check lists for companies to work through: How Prepared is Your Company? What Are Warning Factors? What Protections Are In Place? Finally, it shows how to talk to workers, both in times of health and in times of crisis. And it gives a plan for how to get better.
A similar plan was introduced in the United Kingdom, called Mates In Mind, which is about building a mental health awareness program. The difference in the UK is that the program is funded and backed by both the government and several charity organizations, making it a more aggressive and productive plan than the ones in the US, which are mostly run by proactive construction companies. (Many companies in the United States still lag behind in mental health care, as things like the Construction Industry Blueprint and even mental health insurance coverage are optional.)
For more information about the Construction Industry Blueprint, visit CarsonJSpencer.org. For immediate help with suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK