In the construction industry, the number two cause of death among men 19 – 54 is suicide, after cancer. With this statistic in mind, the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA), in partnership with Scott Construction, held a complimentary breakfast event last Tuesday to discuss the importance of destigmatizing mental health in the construction industry and how workplaces can help their team members who may be struggling.
The event treated a full house of attendees to a presentation by Mike Haley from Scott Construction, in which he shared the moving story of his own mental health journey and how his experiences have been able to help others who are living with mental health challenges. Haley also discussed the stigma that surrounds mental health and how it can stop tradespeople from pursuing mental health services.
“Being a long-time sufferer of depression and knowing the pain, I wanted help but didn’t know how to get it. I always thought that if I brought it up with my family doctor, I would be committed to some ‘crazy place’, so I never did. If I can help break the stigma about mental illness by sharing my story and if I can help encourage someone else to reach out for help, then I’ve done my part. Knowing I have helped someone keeps me mentally strong,” says Haley. “I want other sufferers to know that help is there and you don’t have to keep it inside,” he added.
In order to support their team members, Scott Construction created a Mental Health Committee, which assists employees who need help with their mental health and wellness. “At Scott, we are very lucky to have very supportive, forward-thinking senior management who truly ‘walk the talk’ of our corporate value of ‘people first’,” says Donna Grant, Marketing & Project Pursuit Manager at Scott Construction.
Scott’s volunteer-powered committee works to assist employees with their mental health and teaches volunteers what to notice, what to do, and how to be proactive when helping a coworker who may be struggling with mental illness. Grant has noticed how workers have been eager to receive suicide prevention tools, how the industry needs to talk about the subject more often, and how necessary she feels it is for businesses and staff to have the right knowledge to deal with potential mental health emergencies.
Grant also said that it’s not difficult for companies to start their own mental health committees to support their teams. All that is required are volunteers, quarterly meetings, and a budget. “We accessed very valuable resources and guidance by signing up for the ‘Not Myself Today’ program through the Canadian Mental Health Association, which I would certainly recommend for anyone interested in getting a committee underway,” she said.
Both the BCCSA and Scott Construction agree that it is the responsibility of the construction industry and for individuals in the field to support one another and help reduce the stigma that mental illness has historically had. Even more so, the importance of having conversations with one another around the subject of mental health and mental illness is integral to the continued success of the industry.
“I want anyone who is suffering from mental illness to know that it doesn’t mean they are weak or a liability in the workplace – or that they will always feel that way. There are resources available that can make an enormous difference to our quality of life. Reaching out when we need it can mean that our lives are back on track far more quickly than when we suffer in silence, feeling more isolated and hopeless by the day,” says Grant. “I’m hoping that speaking to groups in our industry will help us all see mental illness through a different lens. If we understand that mental illness is truly an illness—and not a character flaw—more people will feel free to access resources and begin to enjoy their lives fully again, without the fear of being labeled and stigmatized by their employer, coworkers, family, and friends. We desperately need this change to happen and I want to do my part”.
If you are interested in starting your own mental health committee at your company, you can reach Donna Grant at [email protected] or (604) 637-2903.
Please see below for local mental health resources that can be accessed right now.
Online mental health resources
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division:
- Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). If you are thinking about ending your life or are concerned about someone who may be, you can call for help any time of day or night, from anywhere across BC. It’s a free call.
- Mental Health Support Line: Call 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number). This number will connect you to your local BC crisis line without a wait or busy signal, 24 hours a day. Crisis line workers are trained to help provide emotional support as well as mental health information and resources.
BC Bereavement Helpline:
Phone (Greater Vancouver): (604) 738-9950
Phone (Toll-Free): 1 (877) 779-2223
You can also email us for grief support at [email protected]