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May 26, 2023

Why is mental health such a concern for the construction industry?

Various mental health challenges face the construction industry, including suicide.

Compared to other industries, construction has one of the highest suicide rates, and it’s a major reason why concern about mental health in the construction industry continues to grow.

According to Zippia, nearly 94% of the U.S. construction industry is male, and men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Research estimates that 46% of people who have died by suicide had a known mental health condition.

Factors that contribute to mental health conditions in the construction industry?

  • Reluctance to acknowledge mental health concerns and seek help due to the stigma of seeming "weak".
  • Grappling with fear of shame and judgment for admitting you have a problem.
  • Chronic pain, which can result in substance problems like opioid misuse.
  • Layoffs from seasonal work put a strain on family relationships and finances.
  • Stress due to a deadline-driven work environment. 
  • Fatigue created by long work hours.
  • Extended periods away from home due to job travel.
  • Limited control over the job.
  • Problems exacerbated and created by the pandemic.

The most positive outcomes for mental health conditions come when people get help as early as possible. This is something that males, particularly those who consider themselves “tough” may find difficult, if not impossible, to do. So how can construction executives get their workers to talk about the mental health challenges they face?

Start by creating, communicating, and continuing a plan.

When you discover a worker is dealing with a mental health crisis, address it with them as soon as possible. 

1. Help prevent problems from occurring.

  • Promote awareness of the problem as well as available solutions.
  • Integrate mental health services into new employee orientations.
  • Have mental health service providers on hand to answer questions about confidentiality, process, and outcomes.
  • Remind employees about mental health benefits at annual benefit renewal meetings.
  • Make it easy to access mental health services.
  • Position these strategies as initiatives that help overall health and family well-being and improve job performance. 

2. Identify those who may be at risk.

  • Try to determine who might be having the most trouble at work.
  • Be attuned to when employees are experiencing the most stress.
  • Train supervisors and others on how to have difficult conversations with workers.
  • Empower others to step in when someone appears overwhelmed or shows initial signs of mental health concerns.
  • Connect employees to support at the earliest possible stage.

3. Have a response plan for when crises may occur.

  • Work with employees to create a safety plan that mitigates mental health challenges from escalating.
  • Determine who should be included in the employee’s support team.
  • Ask what the employee thinks would be most helpful in assisting them.
  • Ask if the employee wants union representatives as advocates in the process.
  • Review your policies regularly.
  • Create a plan to provide extra support during economic downturns.
  • Provide effective and compassionate grief and trauma support after a suicide.
  • Learn how to communicate after a suicide with resources such as

Whatever you do, management has to demonstrate support.

Acknowledge that employees are experiencing overwhelming life challenges, mental health conditions, and substance misuse disorders.

Assess your company’s readiness to deal with these issues.

Communicate often about the company’s priorities for mental health promotion and suicide prevention.

Reassure employees that they will receive your support if they reach out for help.

Provide access to training, evaluation, and mental health services.

Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA) can help you get started.

Excellent resources are already available, such as the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. MMA can help you determine which resources are best for your business. We have a Mental Health Toolkit available for all employers. MMA can even help you design a plan that works for you, your employees and your construction business. 

Download our Benefits Trends Report to learn more about the changes in mental and behavioral health needs in the workplace or contact your MMA representative.