CLR Connector The Other Pandemic. Mental Health and the Workplace
With mental health in the workplace being the central theme of our conference this year, we brought in speakers who shared their extensive expertise and practical solutions with our attendees, demonstrating that although the issues of mental health and substance use are significant in the construction industry, the resources to prevent and manage the existing challenges are available to both employers and workers.
“The Brain Guy”, Terry Small, shared a very clear message with us: people with healthy, rested brains are focused, productive and they work safely. Terry’s session was built around two main themes: when your brain works right, you work right; and when you look after your brain, the results are better and safety improves. Terry also armed us with the tools to boost brainpower, improve thinking and focus, and create a healthy, productive workplace.
Diana Vissers, an Occupational Health Consultant with Work to Wellness spoke on the new Mental Health toolkit, toolbox talk and re-mind.ca website developed for BCCSA including the video “The Lone Hunter” available on the re-mind website.
The project aims to gather available mental health instruments and information, translate them into “construction language” and create a professional Toolbox Talk for all BC construction employers.
Vicky Waldron of the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan (CIRP) introduced the results of an extensive research project carried out by the CIRP in partnership with WorkSafeBC. The survey involved over 600 respondents of whom 50% represented the employers, and the other half – employees.
Key findings of the survey suggest that the existing strong stigma towards mental health and substance use (MH & SU) prevents people from asking for help. At the same time, other people (co-workers, supervisors) are willing to help but sometimes are afraid to verbalize that help. The industry has an opportunity to leverage this desire to help with relatively simple strategies.
Employer Focused Opportunities
- Managers, foremen, & union representatives need to continuously remind worker of the resources through existing touchpoints: emails, newsletters and company updates.
- Establish a culture of support and discussion: mental health (MH) committees, MH awareness training with regular check-ins between employers and employees.
- Include MH and psychological safety into existing toolbox safety meetings.
- Assign a trained point of contact to provide education and awareness, show your employees that the organization prioritizes MH.
- Support networks that allow for workers who may work long, or irregular shifts to access help, such as 24hr phone lines, mobile apps and online support groups.
- Approach mental health like physical health; workers need to learn how to use and maintain their most important tool, their mind.
- Make it easy for everyone to get help without needing to tell you about it. Create private pathways to care and inform everyone about them.