A pilot program focused on mental health issues in the residential construction industry recently confirmed the need for a more deliberate and permanent effort to reduce the stigma of discussing mental health within the construction industry. Leaders in the construction industry are encouraged to share or solicit personal stories of challenges with mental health issues as storytelling was shown to be an effective tool in beginning dialogue.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) received a grant from the Job-Site Safety Institute (JSI) in 2021 to develop a comprehensive approach to raising awareness of and providing resources for mental health issues in construction. NAHB used the grant to partner with the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA), and with the assistance of Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, a noted clinical psychologist, mental health advocate and researcher, to create a Blueprint for Worker Well-Being Pilot Program, a model resource program for HBAs in the NAHB Federation. Dr. Spencer-Thomas holds a deep commitment to not only help prevent suicide, but also encourage people to sustain a passion for living.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with NAHB and NCHBA on such an important topic not just in our industry, but across society,” said JSI Chairman Erik Anderson. “Many in our field don’t want to admit that we have difficult challenges in our lives and feel we don’t need to talk to someone to help us. We hope this program will break down those stereotypes so that not only can employees be safe on jobsites, but also have their lives on the right track when they go home to their families.”
The pilot program saw the creation of materials focused on raising awareness of mental health issues and helpful resources construction workers, supervisors and business owners could access to identify and treat problems and facilitate a healthy return to work for those impacted. Resources are available on both the NAHB and NCHBA websites.
A final report on the program prepared by Dr. Spencer-Thomas identified a need to expand the availability of resources to all home builder associations in the NAHB federation. Confidential surveys and screening tools confirmed that there are high levels of distress among American construction workers and that the topic of mental health carries a strong bias that is difficult to overcome. Read the key findings and recommendations from the report.
“We know there is a problem in the home building industry when talking about mental health challenges,” said NAHB Chairman Alicia Huey, a custom home builder and developer from Birmingham, Ala. “We have a long way to go, but NAHB is looking to lead a shift in our culture that will allow workers who are struggling to find the help they need without fear of ruining their livelihoods.”
Data from the pilot program showed that personal storytelling was far more engaging than other types of content. A storytelling video series was launched featuring two members of NCHBA, including past president Gary Hill, and its current president, Brandon Bryant.
“I told a deeply personal story about mental health struggles not only to encourage others to do the same,” noted Bryant. “But also, I wanted anyone watching to understand they are not alone and this can happen to anyone, and that help is always available. All you have to do is ask.”