May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s an important topic in most industries, and especially in the skilled trades, where careers can be very strenuous both physically and mentally.
For Mental Health Awareness Month last year, we highlighted five simple strategies that skilled trades professionals could practice for better mental health. We’re proud to say that many of Build Your Future Arizona’s investors are now prioritizing mental health among its employees. Here’s a closer look at how some of these investors are tackling this important issue.
Michelle Walker, vice president of finance and administration at SSC Underground (one of our investors), also chairs the national task force at the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP). Walker and other CIASP members work closely with industry associations, contractors, unions, and partners to make sure that safety programs integrate mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
SSC Underground is among the industry’s companies that are now including mental health care in company benefits. At SSC Underground, behavioral health options are included in annual benefits enrollment, and the company regularly addresses mental health topics in company meetings.
“We need to equate mental health with physical health,” said Walker. “I envision an industry where a worker will feel just as safe saying, ‘I’m having trouble,’ as does a worker requesting a spot on the arm be checked for skin cancer.”
Why are mental health struggles so common in the construction industry? Jerry Shupe, corporate director of safety and health at our investor Hensel Phelps, discussed the topic in a recent episode of the Hope Illuminated Podcast. He pointed out that construction attracts hardworking, dedicated people, but sometimes these folks exhibit those traits to a fault. This can keep workers from seeking help when their mental health is shaky.
“We have a lot of people who are going to do whatever it takes to get the job done,” explained Shupe on the podcast. “We demand a lot of our people and our industry. …They’re trying to make sure they finish the project on time, and on budget — and as we go further into the future, the projects are becoming more and more complex, so it’s a very demanding industry.”
Shupe also pointed out that skilled craftspeople are more nomadic than in other industries, regularly traveling to new worksites and only staying there for a few days or weeks. In this environment, he said, workers may not feel the same sense of belonging as someone in a more traditional workplace.
Among other measures, Shupe mentioned that Hensel Phelps has been training its on-site safety professionals to also be mental health liaisons since these professionals have strong relationships with boots-on-the-ground workers. The company’s “Culture of Care” initiative also regularly provides mental health resources and on-site instruction to its employees.
Our investor McCarthy, which specializes in commercial construction, recently won the Excellence in Mental Health Advocacy Award for a construction company by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). McCarthy has expanded and integrated its mental health services — which include digital, telemedicine, and peer-support services — combining strategies and practices across the company’s safety, human resources, and operations teams.
The company has also actively shared materials with other companies and organizations about its proactive approach.
“This focus on mental health awareness and support is crucial for the long-term success of our industry,” said Scott Wittkop, president and chief operating officer at McCarthy. “Similar to our industry’s united focus on physical safety, we believe this is something we must work on together.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Build Your Future Arizona is committed to a safer, healthier skilled trades community. And we look forward to continued innovations in mental health care. Our industry depends on it.
Construction Workforce Initiative, Build Your Future Arizona’s mission is to create a sustainable and skilled craft workforce by creating awareness about high-paying construction careers, training opportunities, and mapping career paths to employment in these high-demand occupations.