Mental health experts say a culture of risk-taking and self-reliance can be deadly for construction workers.
The construction industry consistently ranks among the highest suicide rates in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Labor leaders in McLean County took part in a recent mental health training with Chestnut Health Systems in Bloomington.
Tim Ryan, Tri-Fund coordinator for the Midwest Region of the Laborers International Union North America, said on WGLT’s Sound Ideas labor leaders have to learn to break down barriers to change the culture.
“We need to try and take away the stigma that we can’t talk about mental health," Ryan said. "(We think) we’re macho men and we need to take that all away and just understand there doesn’t need to be a stigma, we can just talk about it and have a conversation,” Ryan said.
Chestnut's Behavioral Health Clinical Director Carrie Hilling said construction workers should be able to talk about their struggles and their bosses and coworkers need to look and listen for warning signs.
“I think that we probably do see things in our coworkers and our friends and families and people we interact with, but it’s really taking that next step and not being afraid to ask someone how they are doing and taking that kindness to that next level,” Hilling said.
Ryan added opioid abuse has also contributed to the problem as many workers seek pain medications for their work injuries.
He said it’s a challenge that painkillers are the first thing workers turn to when they get hurt on the job.
“I think we want to try to get to the root of that issue, to try to help them understand, you’ve been given this medicine, use it wisely, use it safely, but come to us if you feel like you are having a bigger issue,” Ryan said.
Hilling encourages construction managers to lay the groundwork for open communications starting at the apprentice level. She said employers would also see the benefit in improved productivity.
“When we are well we are all doing better for each other and for ourselves, so I think that’s a really good goal to have,” Hilling said
She added Chestnut hopes to continue its partnership with laborers beyond a one-day training to help ensure workers know where to turn for help.
Chestnut offered several outlets for anyone needing mental health treatment.
- Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255
- McLean County Center for Human Services: (309) 827-5351
- Psychology Specialists Ltd.: (309) 354-4143
- PATH Crisis Line: 211
- Chestnut Health Systems: (309) 827-6026
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