Protecting What’s Beneath the Helmet
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, around 40 million people (nearly twice the population of New York) in the United States have an anxiety disorder. However, fewer than 37% of individuals receive help or treatment.
“The stigma around mental health in the construction industry can be a barrier,” says Jim Grant, Gray’s chief safety officer. “There’s a desire to not show any weakness by asking for help.”
How do we alleviate this matter of unspoken mental health issues to bring more awareness and destigmatize this topic?
Create conversation to build a culture of care
At Gray, we try to simply be available and provide a safe place for team members to discuss these sensitive issues—whether it be with a human resources representative, supervisor, or trusted peer.
Susan Brewer, chief people officer at Gray, believes continued transparency and opportunity around the discussion of mental health will embolden others to seek help.
“People have their own personal stories of how mental health affects their lives, and we need to help them find healthy ways to cope with these issues,” she said.
Provide education & resources
According to OSHA, 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress and 54% of workers report that work stress affects their home life. We believe the dissemination of knowledge and helpful resources will help decrease these staggering statistics.
Gray recently produced a series of mental health resources for team members, titled “Beyond our Hard Hats.” This six-part series offered information and insight around mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention.
“I think these materials really helped bring awareness to the issues and opened up potential conversations,” said Lisa Beckett, benefits specialist at Gray. “Our Employee Assistance Program participation has tripled, which is a good indication that people are utilizing the resources available to receive support.”
Supplementary materials were presented through posters, strategically placed in trailers, restrooms, and other heavily trafficked areas around jobsites, and in Gray regional offices.
Additionally, Gray University, the internal training and development website available to all Gray team members, now offers online courses and modules aimed at educating and informing individuals about mental health topics.
Demonstrate the effect mental health has on safety & productivity
According to new research from the psychology-based app Noom, adults make an average of 122 informed choices every day. Other sources cite up to 35,000 unconscious choices are made daily.
Grant noted the many good daily decisions go into operating safely. Being distracted by a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression can have devastating consequences.
“Safety is comprised of good decisions made every minute in the construction industry,” Grant said. “It’s critical that those struggling with a mental health issue have the opportunity to seek help—not only for their safety but to ensure they don’t put others into a hazardous situation.”
Poor mental health can also affect productivity, resulting in missed deadlines and a sharp decrease in the overall quality of work.
“Our goal should be to act as an advocate to help team members navigate these feelings of stress or anxiety,” Brewer said. “That’s the cornerstone of the caring culture we’ve created here at Gray.”
If you or someone you know needs help, there are several avenues for information and assistance. Contact the NAMI HelpLine to find out what services and support are available in your community.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.