May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S., an important and deeply personal issue to us at Bechtel. 

What is mental health? Is it a state of well-being?  Is it our ability to deal with the stresses of everyday life? Yes and yes; both would allow us to work safely, productively, and contribute to our communities without compromising our health.   

Mentalhealth.gov defines mental health as “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” 

Although there is more awareness to issues in May, Bechtel works year-round to counter the mental health woes that plague the construction industry.  Challenging work environments, remote locations away from support systems, ‘work hard, play hard’ attitudes all contribute to added stress, loneliness, substance abuse, and other dangers.   

Not only are our industry’s workers at a higher risk for mental health issues or substance abuse disorders, but a higher risk of suicide, as well. Recent studies show that construction is the number one industry for suicide rate and number of suicides.

Outside of the devastating effects on individuals and families, poor mental health also contributes to increased safety incidents, and costs the industry billions of dollars in lost productivity per year.  

So where do we expect the typical worker to go to address their mental health concerns? How do we break the stigma attached to talking about our mental health and feelings and create a more caring culture? 

According to a recent Forbes article, there’s a lot we can do. Some companies are providing scripts to their supervisors and managers so that they can speak with those who may be going through a hard time. This small act has already seen results by making mental health and suicide prevention a priority.  

Currently, Bechtel offers Anthem's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP provides quick and easy access to confidential counseling and referral services to help deal with daily work and life challenges. It’s employer-sponsored, so it’s available at no cost to members and their dependents or household members.

Offering programs like these is steadily becoming more popular not only within organizations, but country-wide, as well. Australia holds RUOK? Day each September as a reminder to its citizens to meaningfully connect with those around them and start a conversation with anyone who may be struggling.  

Although these types of programs are becoming more common, there is still a long way to go.  The industry has made significant improvements in safety by making it a core value.  It’s time we begin to look at health and wellness through the same lens. 

If you or someone you know may be struggling, I strongly encourage you to utilize the resources below.  

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – 1-800-662-4357