As COVID-19 continues to affect how we interact with others in the workplace, a recent study of individuals within the construction industry found that while mental health is a concern for many, it remains taboo to talk about at work.
A new survey of the construction workforce from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, the Construction Financial Management Association, CSDZ and Holmes Murphy, calls attention to this issue. As construction experiences the second highest rate of suicide among major industries, the survey’s associated report also offers insights during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
The 20-question online survey was launched in March 2021 and included answers from 1,175 respondents. Among the key findings:
- 93% of all survey respondents recognize addressing mental health at work as a sound business practice. Among presidents, CEOs and owners, 77% indicated it is prioritized at work.
- Only 26% indicated they believe workers are likely to seek care, whereas nearly half did not know (43%) and nearly a third said workers are unlikely to (31%).
- Overall, respondents said their organizations make supervisor training (25%) or employee training (25%) available; 69% identified supervisor training as most helpful and 66% identified training for employees as most helpful.
When asked whether workers would openly discuss mental health with supervisors, only 17% responded they would, 37% indicated they would not and almost half of respondents (46%) were either undecided or did not know. APA polling of the general public from earlier this year shows a dramatic contrast: nearly 56% in that poll indicated they’d be comfortable discussing mental health with their supervisors.
Similarly, when asked whether workers would openly discuss mental health with coworkers, only 18% agreed, 31% disagreed and more than half (51%) were either undecided or did not know. This also indicates a contrast with the APA public polling, where 56% of respondents indicated they’d be comfortable talking about mental health with colleagues.
The top four reasons for that reticence, according to those polled were:
- Shame and stigma (78%)
- Fear of judgment by peers (77%)
- Fear of negative 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,” said Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the APAF Center for Workplace Mental Health. “The good news from these results is that the top-line management in construction are paying attention, and with leaders like CFMA, Holmes Murphy and CSDZ in our corner, we will continue our work in supporting the creation of mentally healthy organizational cultures, ending stigma and improving access to effective and timely care for mental health and substance use conditions.”
“I’m pleased that senior leadership in our industry took the time to participate in this survey. These findings, recommendations and resources will help maintain the industry’s momentum of addressing mental health and wellbeing, including suicide prevention, a topic we have been advocating on behalf of for the last six years,” said Stuart Binstock, president and CEO of the Construction Financial Management Association.
For organizations and businesses seeking help in supporting the mental health of their workforce, APA Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health provides tools, resources and information and recently issued toolkits and webinars on COVID-19, remote work and more.
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