A pilot program found high levels of distress among construction workers – but many don’t want to talk about mental health, a challenge that’s hard to overcome.
WASHINGTON – A pilot program focused on mental health issues in the residential construction industry confirmed the need for a more deliberate and permanent effort to reduce the stigma of discussing mental health.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) received a grant from the Job-Site Safety Institute (JSI) in 2021 to develop to raise awareness and provide resources for mental health issues in construction. NAHB used the grant to partner with the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA)
With the assistance of Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, a clinical psychologist, mental health advocate and researcher, they created a Blueprint for Worker Well-Being Pilot Program, a model resource program. Spencer-Thomas has a deep commitment to not only help preventing suicide, but also encouraging people to sustain a passion for living.
“Many in our field don’t want to admit that we have difficult challenges in our lives and feel we don’t need to talk to someone to help us,” says JSI Chairman Erik Anderson. “We hope this program will break down those stereotypes so that not only can employees be safe on jobsites, but also have their lives on the right track when they go home to their families.”
The pilot program focused on raising awareness of mental health issues and helpful resources construction workers, supervisors and business owners could access to identify and treat problems. Resources are available on both the NAHB and NCHBA websites.
Spencer-Thomas’ final report identified a need to expand resources to all home builder associations in the NAHB federation. According to confidential surveys and screening tools, American construction workers face a high level of distress, and the topic of mental health carries a strong bias that is difficult to overcome. The key findings and recommendations from the report are posted online.
“We know there is a problem in the home building industry when talking about mental health challenges,” says NAHB Chairman Alicia Huey. “We have a long way to go, but NAHB is looking to lead a shift in our culture that will allow workers who are struggling to find the help they need without fear of ruining their livelihoods.”
The pilot program found that personal storytelling was far more engaging than other types of content. As a result, NCHBA launched a storytelling video series featuring two members of NCHBA, including past president Gary Hill and its current president, Brandon Bryant.
“I told a deeply personal story about mental health struggles not only to encourage others to do the same, but also, I wanted anyone watching to understand they are not alone and this can happen to anyone, and that help is always available,” says Bryant. “All you have to do is ask.”
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