Editor’ Note: ‘Everyone can help’
Even though so many COVID-19 symptoms are physical, the pandemic has pushed the topic of mental health further into the spotlight.
Two examples: OSHA recently has expanded its outreach to include suicide prevention. And in 2020, construction industry stakeholders launched Construction Suicide Prevention Week to raise awareness about the “higher-than-average number of suicides in the industry, and to provide resources to help prevent those deaths.”
The October 2018 issue of Safety+Health features an article titled, It’s not an easy conversation, exploring the role safety pros can play in addressing worker mental health. Earlier that year, we posted a poll that asked, “Should mental health in the workplace be part of the safety pro’s responsibility?”
Looking at the poll now, I wish we hadn’t used the word “responsibility.” Even though a majority of respondents (52%) answered “yes,” several concerned commenters said, in effect, that they don’t have the training to diagnose or treat mental illness.
OSHA’s messaging is better. In a 5 things you should know poster about suicide prevention published by the agency in May, No. 1 on the list is “Everyone can help.”
It also acknowledges that mental health “can be difficult to talk about.” In his article this month, Associate Editor Kevin Druley looks at the stigma surrounding the topic. He speaks with experts about how the “macho” culture in construction and other industries can make seeking help even harder for workers, and lists some strategies and resources that all safety pros can use to contribute to a workplace culture in which mental health issues are recognized, and people who are struggling feel free to speak up.