Why construction must focus on mental health resilience

By Rachel Clements, Co-Founder & Director of Psychological Services, Resilia
Tuesday, 19 July, 2022

Why construction must focus on mental health resilience

The pandemic placed a strain on businesses and employees. Safe Work Australia’s key work health and safety statistics show 9% of all claims lodged in 2020–21 were mental health-related compensation claims.

Mental health and psychological injuries (such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression) have negative consequences for companies and workers. This is an issue that affects all sectors, but the Productivity Commission says construction is a particularly high-risk industry for mental health and suicide.

A Chartered Institute of Building report, released before the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests 26% of industry professionals considered suicide in 2019 and more than half (56%) work for organisations with no mental health policies in place.

To deal with this, businesses need to be proactive about empowering workers with resilience skills. The best way to do this is by putting a dedicated program in place to empower people to effectively deal with stressful situations, learn from challenges and form meaningful connections with others.

Being able to call on positive coping strategies and knowing the value of making meaningful contributions to society will also prove useful.

After completing Resilient Me — a self-guided psychological resilience program — people with mental health issues reported a 75% improvement in anxiety, depression and stress scores.

The Case for Resilience report also reveals participants’ overall wellbeing improved by 40%, with 88% increasing work capacity, 12.5% taking on volunteer work and 25% starting a new job.

Empowered people and organisations can achieve and sustain recovery gains. Even in the face of seemingly impossible odds and challenging life circumstances, recovery is possible.

Early intervention is key

The sooner organisations address mental health issues, the better. Prevention is better than waiting until someone is ill or burned out, but early intervention also makes a difference.

Positive psychology practice prevents negative psychological conditions, such as stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, and workplace dissatisfaction, but also improves a person’s quality of life, sense of satisfaction and capacity to thrive.

Many skills can be taught digitally, giving people a better chance of dealing with issues when they arise.

This kind of proactivity reduces compensation claims and improves positive outcomes by 40%.

Early intervention programs can:

  • Reduce time away from work
  • Shorten recovery outcomes
  • Increase capacity to remain at work
  • Minimise the likelihood of further absence
  • Improve workplace perceptions

How to bring this to life

The pandemic has made mental health impossible for organisations to ignore. Dealing with wellbeing can feel overwhelming, but there are a range of online resources to help.

Simple steps, such as educating workers about the benefits of effective nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness techniques, can make a difference.

Employees are increasingly looking for companies that demonstrate a commitment to their wellbeing. So, introducing wellbeing measures may also help to attract and retain the best people.

For the best results, tailor programs to the specific needs of the organisation and staff. Getting this right significantly improves outcomes for people experiencing psychological injuries. If an issue isn’t a problem for that individual, it needn’t be included in the program.

A good place to start is partnering with an organisation to understand the psychosocial risk factors for the business. It’s then easier to identify at-risk groups and put appropriate controls and measures in place.

Supportive leadership also plays a huge role to in employee wellbeing. Train leaders to make them feel comfortable and knowledgeable when discussing these issues. Appropriately trained human resources personnel and line managers will also build a culture where people feel safe to ask for help.

This work takes time, so work around busy schedules and commit to teaching adaptive resilience skills on an ongoing basis.

Now is the perfect time to empower teams and make prevention and early intervention a key part of employee wellbeing programs. This will help individuals achieve and sustain recovery while improving workplace mental health.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Arpad Nagy-Bagoly

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