Mental health and suicide impact the construction industry, and many key stakeholders are unaware of the full extent of the impact, or they don’t feel comfortable discussing it (or both). FCA members are employers and leaders in the construction industry. FCA provides information, tools and resources for contractors so they understand that there could be members of their own organizations struggling with mental illness, how they can recognize those individuals’ challenges and how they can help.
The Problem – Construction Leaders Need More Information on Mental Health
Many in the construction industry know someone who suffers with mental illness, and too many know someone (directly or indirectly) who has died by suicide. That said, knowing someone doesn’t mean one necessarily understands the extent of the underlying issues beneath the surface. The construction industry’s physically-demanding, “macho” workplace culture can create a stigma around mental illness, where those affected can be incorrectly perceived as “weak.”
Construction leaders aren’t always aware of how far from the truth this stigma really is. They don’t always have the information to understand that people don’t choose to have a mental illness much in the same way people don’t choose to have a physical illness like cancer. They may not realize how many factors in their industry (chronic pain, irregular schedules, project-based employment, etc.) can disrupt those living with mental illness. They might not know the signs that clue them in that an individual is struggling. And if they do recognize that someone needs help, do they know how to broach the subject? Do they know how to get the individual the help he or she needs?
The Solution – Construction Leaders Who Know What to Look for and How to Help
FCA leverages its platform as an organization representing 7,000 signatory contractors to provide the information, tools and resources our members need to recognize when those in their organizations are struggling and how to get them the help the help they need. These resources are consistently delivered through FCA’s industry events, publications and more.
FCA partners with one of our members who is a loss survivor to produce “You’re Not Alone,” a mental health and suicide prevention blog for the construction industry. That member’s perspective as a business owner and a suicide loss survivor allows him to tailor this message specifically to construction employers, who can directly impact and change a company’s culture. Through the blog, employers gain the understanding and resources they need to make a difference for those around them and in their organizations.
The Results – Construction Leaders Changing the Culture
FCA has thrown our stone into the pond of construction industry suicide prevention, and we continue to be amazed at how far those ripples spread. By arming construction employers and leaders with information on mental health, the topic has become more normalized and spurred real, open discussion among industry stakeholders and employees.
More and more contractors respond to “You’re Not Alone” thanking the author for sharing his message, sharing their own personal stories, requesting more information on the topic and some even asking if they can use the blog in their own company newsletters. One FCA member put it best by telling the author that “his courage to share helps thousands not feel alone.”
The shifting conversation can be seen at in-person events, virtual meetings, phone calls and random conversations. People are more open to sharing their vulnerabilities, their challenges and the challenges those around them are facing. We still have miles to go in changing the construction culture and normalizing mental illness, but slow and steady growth continues from the top down, one ripple at a time.