Mental health is an important topic for all industries, especially construction - it is essential for the wellbeing of employees and the success of the business. During Mental Health Awareness Month (held in May), construction companies should create a plan to ensure their workers are educated on mental health topics and have access to the resources they need.
In this blog post (the start of a series), we will highlight why mental health is important in construction, how to create change within the industry, the importance of self-care plans, what to be aware of with Mental Health First Aid, and how to continue the conversation throughout the year.
What is your plan for mental health awareness month?
Mental health awareness month reminds us of the need to talk about the unique challenges of mental health in the construction industry. Having a plan for the month is key to making sure everyone in the organization can have an open and honest conversation about mental health and its impact on the workplace. Your plan should include strategies to open the dialogue, to create sustainable change, and to highlight support services for employees. Additionally, and one could argue: most importantly, it’s critical to use this opportunity to build upon current initiatives and continue the conversation throughout the year. With a clear plan in place, organizations can ensure that mental health is given the attention it deserves.
Why is mental health awareness so important in construction?
Increasing awareness, support, and conversations around mental health in construction is crucial. Construction has one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries. With workers facing unique and difficult challenges on the job, the time to overcome the stigma and foster these conversations is now.
As you likely know, working long hours, dealing with hazardous conditions, navigating complex regulations and often working away from home for weeks, or months, at a time can all contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Furthermore, the stigma around mental health in construction can discourage workers from speaking out or seeking help when needed.
How can we create change around mental health in construction?
The importance of mental health awareness in construction cannot be overstated. As an industry, we need to create a culture that promotes understanding and encourages open dialogue about mental health issues. To do this, organizations should put together robust plans to address the change.
Putting these change management plans in place will help you achieve the outcomes you are looking for. We will dive into this in a future post, but these plans should include:
gaining leadership's active and visible support
building partnerships across the organization
aligning internal and external resources
training leaders, supervisors, and employees
planning for ongoing support
If this seems daunting, that is because you are talking about big change. Take a breath and remember that this will take time and one step forward is better than staying where you are.
Start with determining where you want your organization to be, with regard to their mental health awareness, next year. Then build back the plan from there - one step at a time.
What should be included in a self-care plan?
While we may not talk about it much in construction, self-care is essential for the health and well-being of all individuals, especially those working in high-risk fields like construction. Regardless of what your organization is doing, developing a personalized self-care plan can help to reduce stress, promote better mental health, and increase work performance.
When creating a self-care plan, it is important to consider what areas of your life need the most attention. Some common areas to focus on include physical health, emotional health, relationships, career, and personal growth. Here are few things to consider when building your plan:
Physical health: Regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and adequate rest are essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind.
Emotional health: Take time to relax and take breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout.
Relationships: Surround yourself with positive people who bring out the best in you.
Career: Set goals for yourself that are realistic and achievable. Also, be sure to take breaks from work when necessary to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Personal growth: Learn new skills or participate in activities that are meaningful to you.
By creating a personalized self-care plan, you can ensure that you are taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. With a little effort, you can create a plan that works for you and leads to better mental health.
What should you be aware of with mental health first aid?
Mental health first aid (MHFA) can be an important part of creating a plan for mental health awareness in your organization. It is a structured, evidence-based program designed to help identify and assist individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. This type of training is a great tool for construction companies to promote the well-being of their workers.
When it comes to considering whether MHFA is right for your organization, there are certain things to be aware of:
It is important to understand that mental health is unique to each person and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when providing assistance.
Not everyone in your organization wants to be trained as a mental health first aider nor should they be expected to do so - it is a choice.
Being a mental health first aider carries a burden in and of itself. If you choose to implement this training program, ensure that you have support for those trained.
By understanding the basics of mental health first aid, and that it should be one component of a culture shift, construction companies can better support their workers in times of need and create an environment that is conducive to positive mental health.
How can we continue the conversation about mental health in construction throughout the year?
One of the best ways to ensure that mental health awareness remains an ongoing priority in the construction industry is to keep the conversation going. We must create an environment that encourages open dialogue and allows people to feel safe and supported.
Start by recognizing that mental health issues are real and need to be taken seriously. Then, put a plan in place for you and your organization to help build the skills needed to support the change. Focus on building a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health without judgment or stigma.
Ultimately, continuing the conversation about mental health in construction throughout the year requires everyone’s commitment. It’s not enough to just have a Mental Health Awareness Month – we must create an ongoing dialogue and a safe space for all individuals to share their stories and experiences.