The construction industry, known for its physical demands and high-pressure work environment, is facing a silent crisis – the mental health of its workers. Long hours, physically demanding tasks, and constant safety risks contribute to stress levels. Add to this the pressure to meet tight deadlines and maintain productivity, and you have a recipe for mental health challenges. This situation is compounded by a lack of support systems, stigma around seeking help, peer judgment, and a scarcity of mental health education and awareness programs.
The statistics surrounding the mental health concerns in construction are alarming. The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention found that construction workers are more than three times as likely to die by suicide than the average worker. Every year the construction industry raises awearness about the challenges workers face in construction that leads to suicide and what we can do to prevent it.
On October 18, 2023, the construction companies of Manhattan Kansas teamed up to coordinate an event to promote mental health in construction. Dr. Matt Wassom from Katie’s Way and Brynn Haverkamp from Pawnee Mental Health both spoke about the raising concerns on mental health in the construction industry. Men and women from multiple construction companies, including BHS Construction, and students from Manhattan Area Technical College and Kansas State University were in attendance.
Dr. Matt Wassom expressed the difficulties associated with addressing mental health problems in the industry, stating, “It is a lot easier to talk about physical ailments than mental health issues…It is my goal to level the playing field.” The stigma associated with mental health problems is a significant barrier to seeking help. Workers fear being labeled as “weak” which prevents them from reaching out for support. Dr. Wassom urged attendees to ‘break the silence’. “It is an ongoing process.” Says Dr Wossom, “How do we make mental health visible; how do we make it vocal? Leaders can become mental health champions by being vulnerable with topics related to mental health.”
Brynn Haverkamp took the stage to shed light on the signs, symptoms, and what to watch out for in colleagues and peers who might be silently grappling with mental health challenges. Brynn emphasized the crucial role that our coworkers play in our lives, stating, “We spend the majority of our lives with our coworkers.” She encouraged the attendees to make an effort to get to know the people in their professional lives better. Sometimes, all it takes is building a connection and being able to spot changes that could serve as red flags for mental health struggles. As Brynn wisely reminded the audience, “There is always someone to talk to.” This valuable insight underscores the importance of creating a supportive and open workplace environment where individuals can reach out when they need it most.
The topic of mental health is not easily talked about amongst peers. Dan Youngers, President of the AGC of Kansas, says “Having this event here today is a huge milestone. We are very thankful to Pawnee Mental Health and Katie’s Way, and to KSU Athletics for letting us use their facilities.” This is the first of many event Manhattan plans to host to promote mental health in the construction industry.
BHS is a long and proud supporter of Pawnee Mental Health Services and their mission in helping promote Mental Health in Manhattan and surrounding communities. “Having quality mental health services for the community benefits everyone,” says Patrick Schutter, President of BHS Construction, “and the fact that it allows people to be productive in society…. No one really knows when people are struggling, not all the time, so having an organization out there like Pawnee is important. Just having someone who can answer the call in need when someone may not even know what they need.”
If you are struggling with mental health and are in need of immediate help call 988 or visit 988 Lifeline website.