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Construction workers aren’t comfortable talking about mental health, execs and supervisors say

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Washington — Although an overwhelming majority of construction executives and supervisors say it’s important to address mental health in the workplace, fewer than 1 out of 5 believe their workers feel comfortable discussing the topic with supervisors or peers, according to the results of a recent survey.

The American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, along with the Construction Financial Management Association and two insurance companies, in March conducted an online survey of nearly 1,200 workers with varied supervisory or executive roles in multiple sectors of the construction industry. Although 93% of respondents said addressing mental health at work is a sound business practice, only 17% think their workers would comfortably and openly discuss mental health issues with a supervisor, and 18% believe affected workers would attempt to confide in co-workers.

Thirty-seven percent of the respondents said they didn’t believe workers would feel comfortable discussing their mental health with supervisors, while 31% said they felt workers wouldn’t openly talk about their struggles with peers.

The leading reasons the respondents cited to explain worker reluctance to discuss mental health issues were:

  • Shame and stigma (78%)
  • Fear of judgment by peers (77%)
  • Fear of negative job consequences (55%)
  • Don’t know how to access care (46%)

“The stark differences in the level of comfort just talking about mental health in this industry tells us that we have a ways to go in fighting stigma and giving managers the tools they need to support worker mental health,” Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the APAF Center for Workplace Mental Health, said in a press release. “The good news from these results is that the top-line management in construction are paying attention.”

One-fourth of the respondents indicated their employers made supervisor or employee training available. Fifty-six percent of the respondents in field management and 62% of presidents, CEOs and company owners said they promote the services of their organization’s employee assistance program.

 

A survey report includes recommendations for employers to enhance mental health awareness in the workplace. Among them:

  • Continuously share information and resources on mental health and substance misuse, using newsletters and posters. Also, share information about the EAP, crisis hotlines and well-being resources.
  • Build a caring culture that promotes psychological safety by showing concern and empathy for workers and their families while reinforcing a respectful workplace culture free from harassment, discrimination and harsh judgment of peers.
  • Consider creating a mentorship or peer support initiative.
  • Remove barriers to care and improve access to medical and mental health care.

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