Addressing Mental Health in the Construction and Electrical Trades

Mental health in the trades industry requires proper attention. Workers in the construction and electrical trades sector have tendencies to suffer from being anxious, stressed, or depressed. The heavy and physically demanding nature of their jobs could take a toll on their mental health.

A study with data from different countries indicates that trade workers – including electricians and manual laborers – suffer from anxiety, depression, and suicides more than the general population. But why do tradespeople have more tendencies than other professions? Working in construction is notorious for being physically and mentally draining, longer work hours, and having a poor working environment.

In one conference held in the U.K., Kevin Fear from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) stated that 454 construction workers took their own lives in 2016. The CITB H&S Strategy Lead explained that there are more suicide tendencies in construction than in any profession. The numbers alone speak for themselves. So how do we keep tradespeople from facing mental health issues and prevent suicide from happening? The first thing is awareness – checking in on one another.

Warning Signs To Look Out For

Work-related stress can happen due to the demands of the job of a construction worker or an electrician. This may lead to stress and depression, which can exhibit in many ways. Here are some signs of a troubled worker:

  1. Frequent Absences

    • Being absent from one’s job is not a common occurrence. If the worker’s absenteeism becomes frequent, this could be a sign that something is wrong. A lack of energy and motivation to go to work could mean that they may already be dealing with problems.
  2. Changes in Behavior or Mood

    • Are there any changes in someone’s behavior? They may be more irritable even with smaller inconveniences in the job. If they are too quiet and easily get angry can also be indicators. Any changes in their personality that you wouldn’t expect from them should be considered.
  3. Poor Job Performance

    • Once a previously hardworking and productive worker, may have a decline in how they perform their duties. It could be that they work slower than usual, take longer rest breaks, or forget some details in their work procedures.
  4. Substance Abuse

    • Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances could be a sign that they are trying to escape from something. They tend to be more codependent on these substances to make them feel better. Substance abuse can be observed in their physical appearance (red eyes, weight loss or gain) or their behaviors (running late or leaving early from their shifts).
  5. Thoughts of Suicide or Self-Harm

    • Expressions of harming themselves or entertaining suicidal thoughts are an urgent concern. They may already be planning something dangerous and are looking for access to dangerous or poisonous items. They might be cutting themselves or inflicting others wounds or burns to their body as a test run of the real thing. Observe if they’re consuming media, such as news or videos about suicides. If this is the case, it’s important to keep them away from harm and offer counseling or medical support.
  6. Physical Pain and Injuries

    • A lack of focus at work and not having enough clarity in their thoughts could lead to not following proper work protocols. Without concentration due to mental health troubles, they may experience unintended injuries. The laborious job in the trades is not the only cause of physical pain and injuries, their mental state can be in play.
    • How do mental issues affect workers? A sample of construction workers who participated in a study indicated that 16% have substantial mental distress. This mental distress contributed to acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain. It goes to show how mental troubles can impact their well-being. Not only are they dealing with negative thoughts – it may translate to physical pain that can affect their daily lives.

Possible Causes

Certain unfortunate events in one’s life can lead to mental health problems. Mental health in trades can often be due to working longer hours, causing burnout. This is one of the leading causes as they may no longer have time for recreation or other activities that fulfill them.

Those who work alone or are self-employed may not be able to cope with the loneliness of their job. When working alone, they may have more tendencies to think negative thoughts. Another would be financial or personal struggles that they think have no solution.

Regardless of the individual’s possible triggers, it’s important to recognize that these reasons are valid. Oftentimes, a worker may hide these problems to avoid embarrassment or discrimination, which only worsens their mental distress.

Coping Strategies and Self-Care Are Essential

It’s possible to minimize mental health in trades. All it takes is making sure that affected workers know they can get help. Seeking professional help is one of them. It will also make them feel better to learn about coping strategies or how to practice self-care. The following are good industry practices:

Open Communication

Conversations can help a worker who is experiencing mental health troubles. There needs to be a culture of open communication, such as sharing stories. If you’re a leader or a manager, it’s important to set an example. This could allow workers and colleagues to be more comfortable in sharing their thoughts as well.

Watch Out for Each Other

Being aware of the warning signs of mental health problems is a big help. You can then work towards providing support for the individual who is showing signs of being anxious or having suicidal tendencies. Promote teamwork and organize events that cultivate engagement among workers.

Have a Full Workforce

A contributing factor to mental health in trades is the burnout of employees. Working more than the required hours will only cause exhaustion to them. And if the overload becomes a frequent occurrence, it could impact their mental health. To prevent this, it’s important to assess if there’s an adequate number of workers. Making sure to have enough workers, especially for construction projects that run around the clock, is essential.

Break the Stigma

Mental health in trades has to be recognized. It is not supposed to be left out and must be discussed openly in the workplace. There is so much stigma revolving around mental health. Particularly for workers in the construction and electrical sector – they prefer not to admit or hide their mental health struggles. Instead, mental health has to be recognized as something important similar to taking care of our physical health.

The Industry is here for you!

Whether you’re a business owner, a manager, a team leader, or a co-worker,you can help deal with mental health issues. As an employer or a colleague, it’s important to maintain a culture where everyone is encouraged to seek ways to maintain the best state of mind. Workers perform better at their jobs when they don’t experience any mental distress. Cooperation is key to making the work environment more conducive for workers. This includes mental health programs and engaging activities.

During this mental health awareness month, we are reminded that mental health is an important part of our overall well-being. Trade workers must know they have options and that they can access support systems promoted by the industry that employs them.