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Access 101

Prioritizing Mental Health in Construction

Blog Posts - Oct 23

Prioritizing Mental Health in Construction

JLG Industries, Inc.
World-leading access equipment manufacturer
McConnellsburg, PA

At JLG, safety is an uncompromised value. As we work to develop cutting-edge products, enhance the worksite of the future and expand into global markets, we maintain a firm commitment to keep people safe at work—from JLG team members to the operators who use our equipment every day.

On the jobsite, safety begins with the health and wellbeing—including mental health—of each worker. In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 1-7, and National Depression Awareness Month, October 1-31, JLG would like to shed light on mental illness, suicide and the impact of mental health on the construction jobsite. 

Why focus on mental health?

More than 20 percent of U.S. adults live with mental illness, according to the National Institutes of Health. Of those adults, only 40 percent sought treatment for mental illness within the past year. Mental illness is a major risk factor for suicide, as most people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder—most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance use disorder.

The construction industry is among the bottom 10 industries by mental health score. One Canadian study shows that 83 percent of construction workers have experienced a moderate to severe mental health issue. What’s more, construction workers suffer from a substance abuse rate that’s nearly twice the national average. The industry is also plagued by a suicide rate of more than 3.5 times the national average, and the highest number of suicides across all occupational groups. 

According to the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention, construction workers are at a greater risk for suicide due to both the makeup of the workforce and the demands of the job. The construction workforce is 97 percent male and employs a considerable number of veterans—two demographics that are more prone to suicide than the general population. Construction professionals work long hours in a physically demanding and stressful profession, contributing to irregular sleep patterns and higher incidence of physical pain, including chronic pain, a risk factor for depression and/or self-medication. In addition, construction workers often spend significant time away from family and friends and face greater than average layoff potential due to seasonal work or economic downturns.

Loss of connection, loss of sleep, loss (or potential loss) of income, loss of physical wellbeing … these factors may seem insurmountable, but there are ways the construction industry can mitigate their impact.  

Whether you are a business owner, executive, supervisor, manager, human resources professional, construction worker or trade association leader, you can help raise awareness of mental health concerns among construction workers and support for those impacted by mental illness.

How can you become an advocate for mental health?

  • Do your homework. Download stigma-free mental health resources for companies at nami.org. Find additional information on suicide prevention for the construction industry, including downloadable guides and webinars, from the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Bring mental health to the forefront. Use Mental Illness Awareness Week and National Depression Awareness Month as platforms to spread knowledge and understanding of mental health issues—and the elevated risks among construction workers. Share resources to support those who may be struggling with mental illness, addressing depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.
  • Enhance company resources for mental health. Include mental health and counseling services, as well as mental health days, in your employee benefits packages. 
  • Build a culture that supports psychological safety. Reinforce the concept of a respectful workplace, free from harassment, discrimination or bullying by peers or supervisors.
  • Create a peer support or mentorship initiative among employees to improve community, enhance communication and increase the likeliness of workers seeking help when needed. 

The construction industry has made great strides to support the physical safety of workers on a jobsite through detailed standards and protocols. However, safety begins with employee wellbeing and prioritizing mental health. Organizations that create and maintain a holistically safe and healthy culture are likely to experience higher employee satisfaction, higher performance and productivity and better business results.

How JLG proactively addresses team member mental health

JLG recognizes and invests in mental health resources for its team member, emphasizing proactive and progressive mental health care, including:

  • An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which includes services to address work-related and personal needs like anxiety and stress. 
  • Access to a variety of free, online mental health and physical health-related classes, tools and trainings from outside providers.
  • Secure connections to virtual licensed therapists for mental health care.
  • Substance abuse support, guidance and resources for employees.

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