People working on a construction site

Mental health in the construction industry: What are the challenges?

As well as being one of the country’s largest employers, the Australian construction industry has its fair share of challenges when it comes to mental health.

The suicide figures across the industry are particularly concerning. Construction workers have more than twice the suicide rate when compared to the average Australian population. Also, someone working in construction is six times more likely to die by suicide than as a result of a workplace accident.

These grim statistics affect all ages, with apprentices in the construction industry two and a half times more likely to die as a result of suicide than other people in the same age group in Australia.

R U OK? Day 2022 is fast approaching – and serves as an important reminder for both employers and employees that the mental health crisis must be addressed not just by celebrating this important day, but on a daily basis. So, what can construction industry employers do to improve the mental health of their staff?

Mental health issues that construction industry employees face

Construction is a male-dominated industry, and the known mental health issues experienced by its employees are not limited to elevated suicide rates but also include consistently increased rates of depression and anxiety. 

Construction workers having a discussion

Recognising such problems early and offering affected workers the support they need can make a significant difference to their outcomes. Improved mental health leads to better overall well-being – resulting in better productivity. So, investing in measures that can help achieve better health outcomes is highly justifiable for employers – and has repeatedly shown to deliver sound ROI.

Below we discuss some measures that can help improve mental outcomes in construction industry workers.

Removing taboos and increasing awareness of mental health conditions

Just opening up conversations and increasing awareness of the most prevalent mental health conditions already reduces the stigma that may surround mental illnesses. This is the first step to ensuring that workers know they can find support and understanding if they struggle with a mental illness – and are more likely to ask for help if needed.

Organising training sessions and workshops that involve peer workers who have experience of successfully managing mental health conditions is one of the most effective ways to address mental health issues and provide support to the workforce.

Also, all aspects of employment that can potentially lead to mental health challenges should be identified and timely and thoroughly addressed. Such areas include occupational health and safety, dealing with discrimination and harassment, self care practices, etc. Conversations about these important topics can be started during staff inductions and then continued during regular meetings, reviews, and other engagements with employees. 

Developing skills and confidence to have conversations about well-being

Workers should be provided with adequate tools and resources for assessing their state of mental health and managing their well-being. Employees, supervisors and managers should also be confident enough to enquire about the well-being of their co-workers and staff – especially if they notice some concerning signs or behaviour. They should be provided appropriate resources to facilitate holding these conversations.

Two workers having a conversation

Also, the construction industry employers need to foster an ongoing awareness of workplace bullying and its consequences among the workforce. Mentoring of apprentices, new staff and other categories of workers that may be vulnerable to bullying should be encouraged.

Providing support to workers suffering from mental illnesses

With as many as 1 in 4 people suffering from such mental conditions as anxiety or depression, some employees on any construction site are likely to be affected by at least one of these conditions. So, employers should be ready to provide the support that such employees need to stay at work or be able to return to work, engaging the help of Workplace Rehabilitation service providers when needed.

Plan, set goals, review, evaluate

Any employer who is seriously committed to improving the mental well-being of their workers should consider setting up a plan that includes measurable goals, focuses on specific actions and outcomes, and is regularly reviewed and evaluated. Having such a plan in place helps to ensure that the employer remains committed to improving the mental health of their workers both in the immediate future and in the long term.

We work hard to find the best possible match for you

At Synaco, we believe in partnering with clients who share our goals and commitments. We see it as the best way to ensure that our employees – employed in construction and other industries – are provided with a safe, healthy, supportive work environment that is optimal for their physical and mental health. We also work extra hard to meet our clients’ special requirements – and have sound recruitment processes in place to help us achieve the best match between our clients and employees.

We aim to be present, accountable, and available in our relationships with candidates and clients. This is why we make sure that we spend plenty of time in the field. We attend pre-start and safety meetings, hold regular work area inspections and toolbox talks with our workforce, and conduct other relevant pre-site and on-site inductions, assessments, and training.

So, don’t delay – let Synaco assist you with your next career move and see for yourself the positive difference our caring and dedicated approach can make. You can browse our list of vacancies here.