Mental Health on the Job Site – How You Can Help
It has been estimated that one in four adults experience an issue with mental illness. Statistics Canada reports that 33% of workers and labourers involved in trades report poor mental health. Substance abuse and addictions are often related to mental health issues as it is not uncommon for workers to go undiagnosed and untreated. Compared to the provincial average, construction workers were almost twice as likely to report that the use of alcohol had a moderate or extremely serious impact on their work performance. Dealing with seasonal unemployment, long hours and physical exhaustion add to stress, anxiety and have an overall negative impact on mental health. According to a report completed by Alberta Health Services in 2016, phobias accounted for approximately 28% of reported health concerns for construction workers, with feelings of hopelessness followed close behind at approximately 26%. Major depressive disorders were reported at 12%, anxiety at 7% and antisocial personality disorder between 5% to 9%.
Mental illnesses cost Canadian employers billions of dollars in absenteeism, disability and lost productivity. Some may expect the construction industry to be the last place workers would talk about depression or anxiety, but recognizing that mental illness can affect anyone regardless of their profession is the first step in treating the problem. The construction industry is becoming cognizant of the problem and is bringing awareness to the need for support and understanding.
The good news is that mental illnesses can be treated. With treatment, 65% to 80% of individuals with mental illnesses see improvement. Recognizing early symptoms or problems ensures that resources and referrals can be suggested. Each mental illness has different symptoms and how individuals experience the illness varies. If you or someone you know is experiencing some of the following symptoms, they may be dealing with a mental illness:
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Feeling depressed or unhappy
- Emotional outbursts
- Sleep problems
- Weight or appetite changes
- Becoming quiet or withdrawn
- Substance abuse
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Change in behaviour or feelings
If you feel you need help, ensure that you have a physical completed by your doctor to rule out any physiological problems. Don’t be reluctant to seek the advice of an experienced mental health professional. It is important to receive an accurate diagnosis so that the condition can be treated effectively. Avoid the temptation to self-diagnose; a trained professional will be able to do a thorough assessment by exploring various issues that may contribute to the problem.
On the worksite, as an employer or a co-worker, you can be helpful in understanding mental illness and how to deal with it when someone you know is affected.
- Ask if and how you can help
- Continue to include the person in usual workplace activities
- Depending on the relationship, keep in touch with a coworker who has taken time off
- When a coworker returns to work, welcome them back and don’t avoid them
- Advocate for healthy workplaces and help bring awareness to the topic of mental health