Every year on October 10th, we celebrate World Mental Health Day to raise awareness and mobilize efforts to support emotional and psychological well-being.
Historically, construction professionals have suffered from mental health related issues at a disproportionate rate. In fact, the construction industry ranks second highest in suicide rates among other major industries in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) speculates faraway jobsites that isolate workers from family and friends, high stress and a prevalence of substance and alcohol abuse in the industry are contributing factors that negatively impact mental health.
Fortunately, construction stakeholders around the world are working to address what’s been dubbed the ‘silent epidemic’. Companies like Scott Construction Group are educating their employees on critical mental health and wellness topics, ultimately helping to reduce the stigma around asking for help.
Creating Change through the Scott Construction Mental Health Committee
Scott Construction’s mental health journey officially kicked off in 2016 when an employee brought attention to how the opioid crisis was impacting the construction industry. At the time, many construction professionals didn’t know how to talk about the stressors they were experiencing, or have the tools to address their problems. As a result, the Scott Construction leadership team began discussions around formalizing a company-wide Mental Health Committee (MHC).
“We were lucky to already have that kind of culture, but we realized we needed to formalize it,” said Kim Deschaine, director of human resources at Scott Construction. “When we got the committee together, one of the first things we did was make sure we had buy-in from leaders and employees alike.”
Now in its seventh year, the employee-led team meets every month to brainstorm mental wellness themes and new topics of conversation based on feedback from staff surveys. From laughing yoga to a virtual meditation during the pandemic, the Scott Construction MHC also holds a number of interactive trainings and guest speaker sessions. The committee recently partnered with Builders Code to host a diversity and inclusion training, which taught employees about bullying in the workplace as well as how to create and maintain an emotionally and psychologically safe company culture.
Each year, a new employee is offered the opportunity to lead the MHC, giving them a broader perspective into the organization, as well as the chance to directly interact with the Scott Construction President Darin Hughes on a more frequent cadence.
“I started as the MHC lead two weeks after I joined the company. It was a bit intimidating at first, but it's been a super fascinating and rewarding journey,” said Ryley Feenie, human resources generalist at Scott Construction. “One impactful memory was when one of our members reached out to check on a manager because they could tell he wasn't 100 percent. It’s simple, but stuff like that has stuck with me throughout this entire year leading the committee.”
The committee also works with other industry partners and regional trade associations to distribute supporting educational resources. Through taking part in the Not Myself Today initiative led by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the MHC created a robust toolkit to empower employees with resources to support their mental health and recognize potential warning signs in colleagues, friends and family.
“The Not Myself Today campaign gave us a great foundation of knowledge. It's made a huge impact in our organization,” said Deschaine. “Not only does it help with the recruitment, but we've seen a reduced need for stress leave. People instead talk about their problems proactively. We've been able to help two employees with substance abuse disorders before they got to a point where they had to take a leave of absence.”
How Scott Construction is Championing World Mental Health Day
This year was the thirtieth anniversary of World Mental Health Day. The day provided an opportunity for all stakeholders to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. To celebrate World Mental Health Day, the MHC visited jobsites to pass out mental health resources to field staff.
“We want to ensure that we're not just focusing on the office, we want to engage the field as well,'' said Feenie. “We'll be talking to our team members about the resources we have available, and reiterating them with physical printouts our sites can give to staff interested in learning more.”
Get Help Today
The construction industry is still doing the hard work of understanding the causes of mental health concerns, normalizing the conversation around them and offering treatment for its workers. Thankfully, as the conversation evolves, free and easily accessible resources are available today:
- Scott Construction’s How to Start and Run a Mental Health Committee toolkit (available upon request) gives organizations a foundational set of procedures and practices for initiating a committee from scratch.
- UNICEF’s Global Mental Health Chatbot offers tips for communicating what’s on your mind, breaking down stigmas and starting a conversation with someone you’re concerned about.
- Procore Safety Qualified’s Bringing the Right Mindset to the Jobsite course provides useful suggestions for identifying construction-specific stressors, preventing suicide, and the benefits of mindfulness practice.