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Mental Health in the Construction Industry is More Important than Ever

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Content Courtesy of Construction Dive

Suicide prevention in construction more important than ever

The COVID-19 crisis has the potential to exacerbate anxiety, depression and other mental health issues among construction workers, according to an industry expert.

In any industry, suicide prevention and education requires a variety of resources, as well as strong leadership from management, safety professionals and human resources. Yet, according to Greg Sizemore, the first thing construction employers should do to alleviate stress on workers —  especially right now — is to be compassionate.  

Sizemore is Associated Builders and Contractors' vice president of workforce development safety health and environmental and chairperson of the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Here, he talks with Construction Dive about Suicide Prevention Month and how the coronavirus has made suicide prevention tactics even more important for construction firms.

How has the added stress of the COVID-19 crisis added to contractors' already high risk of suicide?

COVID-19 has increased stressors for everyone, but this has been especially detrimental for people already at risk, which includes many people who work in construction. And while we know an underlying mental illness is the No. 1 risk for suicide, COVID-19 has the potential to exacerbate existing anxiety, depression or other mental health issues.

Statistically, construction employees are at a higher risk because men, who make up 91% of the construction workforce, are more likely to die by suicide. The construction industry also employs a large population of veterans who are at a 1.5 times greater risk for suicide compared to nonveterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The average age of our workforce also trends older, which adds to a combination of factors, including complications related to COVID-19 exposure.

That said, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has been extremely stressful for everyone. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. workforce had a routine and then in a moment, everything stopped, resulting in health fears and economic havoc. For months now, families have been dealing with a health crisis with many unknowns, employment instability, financial concerns, gaps in childcare and insolation, just to name a few.

In addition, a new group of the U.S. workforce was suddenly considered front line, which in many cases included construction workers. All of those factors have the potential to compound and increase the risk of suicide.  

What can firms do to help alleviate this added stress?

We know it’s our responsibility to make sure our employees go home in the same — or better — condition than when they arrived on the jobsite and safely return the next morning. And while how we deliver on that commitment may change, especially as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety and health of our workers is always our first priority. Read the rest of the article here.