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Home » Substance Misuse and Suicide Prevention » A Perspective on the Construction Industry’s Mental Health Crisis

Construction is one of the most vital industries in our country. It is a business recognized for its strength, resilience, and remarkable structures it creates.

Deron Brown

President and Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Operations, PCL Construction

“In an industry often hailed for its toughness, we are dedicated to nurturing a culture of empathy.”

Construction is also a major contributor to the U.S. economy. The national industry boasts more than 753,000 employers with more than 7.8 million employees and creates nearly $1.8 trillion worth of structures each year.

However, beneath the scaffolding and behind the temporary fencing is an evolving mental crisis that demands attention. The construction industry holds the unfortunate distinction of the second highest rate of suicide among workers in the United States, at 45.3 per 100,000 workers, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Nearly three decades ago when I started my career in the construction industry, discussions surrounding mental health were virtually non-existent. Despite long hours, high-pressure environments, and physically strenuous tasks, the “tough guy” culture to just “deal with it” has been pervasive in the industry. For so long, mental health discussions were considered taboo and frowned upon on the job.

As a result, many workers feel compelled to manage their challenges alone, foregoing any assistance or support. This could also be contributing to the approximately 15% of construction workers in the United States who struggle with substance abuse (higher than the 8.6% rate found in the general adult population). In recent years, however, awareness has increased on this topic considering mental health poses just as much risk to employees as any physical hazard at a job site.

This September, Denver-based PCL Construction joins forces across all U.S. offices with industry organizations to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental well-being.

Constructing wellness

Since the pandemic, 81% of workplaces have increased their focus on mental health, and PCL Construction is one of them. We are empowering our leaders to engage in more candid conversations about mental health, starting Day 1 of employment during the onboarding process.

We have also implemented mental health conversations into “toolbox talks” where construction field personnel discuss certain topics like mental health prior to beginning their workday. This practice establishes a pivotal norm — these open conversations are not only acceptable but essential.

Our commitment to mental health doesn’t stop there. We’ve reevaluated our existing mental health resources and will launch a new program designed to enhance accessibility to mental health professionals and broaden the array of available resources. Within these resources, we promote resilience-building strategies to help struggling employees cope with stress and adversity. Additionally, unlike other companies, these resources will benefit both salaried and hourly employees.

In an industry often hailed for its toughness, we are dedicated to nurturing a culture of empathy. We believe demonstrating empathy toward mental health is not a sign of weakness, but a testament to strength.

Click here to learn more about how PCL Construction is working to build a safer future in the industry

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