A Mental-Health Scorecard

The construction industry has come a long way in addressing mental health and wellbeing—but still has a lot of work to do. A new white paper reviews recent advancements and remaining obstacles.
By Chase Plank, Sally Spencer-Thomas, Cal Beyer
April 23, 2024

At the 2023 Construction Minds Summit—co-hosted by the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention and United Suicide Survivors International in Kansas City, Missouri, last March—more than 400 attendees participated in roundtable conversations about mental health and wellbeing in the construction industry. As part of the program, they identified positive trends and advancements in this area along with barriers and obstacles to effecting lasting change. This excerpt from the newly released “Construction Working Minds White Paper 2024” presents key takeaways from the roundtables.


Several positive trends in construction mental health were identified in the roundtable discussions. Most notably, these themes were most common:

Leadership buy-in: Increasingly leadership is prioritizing the support for mental-health initiatives, ensuring resources are available and accessible to all workers, and making time for needed training and other wellbeing demands. Leaders are beginning to appreciate how total worker wellbeing is connected to their safety and worker-engagement priorities.

Cultivating a company culture of caring: Several groups now see the importance of cultivating a company culture that prioritizes the wellbeing of employees. These “cultures of care” connect the dots between psychological safety/mental health and jobsite safety by stressing the importance of looking out for one another.

Human connection leading to compassionate awareness and understanding: The urgent and dire statistics shared widely have opened the conversations for honest and open sharing. These stories have increased empathy and reduced the bias and stigma often connected to mental ill-health and suicide. Subsequently, many organizations now deliver supportive messages and normalize mental-health conversations in many communications, from new-worker orientation to leadership development to company websites and newsletters. By maintaining a continuous conversation about the importance of mental health, workers are more empowered to seek help and use available resources before reaching crisis points.

Education, training and development: Organizations are investing in training programs to educate workers on recognizing and addressing mental-health issues on jobsites, and they acknowledge that solutions are not one-size-fits-all. Many now provide basic education on mental health, including topics such as brain chemistry, impulsive reactions and the context of addiction and suicide. Others offer construction-specific skill building for peer support and supervisors.

The proliferation of resources: In a very short period, the construction industry has developed and distributed many different types of resources related to mental health, including toolbox talks, coins/poker chips sharing the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, hardhat/helmet stickers with QR codes directing people to webpages with tools and resources, and much more.

Many organizations are digging into available mental-health services like their employee assistance programs and 988 to get a deeper understanding of how these resources work.

Structured peer support: Many attendees stated they had found success in establishing peer-support networks where workers could connect, share experiences and provide mutual assistance. Some of these were peer-group meetings (e.g., 12-step or story-sharing groups), and others were training cohorts of peer allies to provide support when needed.

Industry-specific research initiatives: New research initiatives are emerging nationally to help us all better understand mental health in the construction industry and develop effective interventions.


Despite the great advancements, several barriers and obstacles hinder the success of mental-health efforts in the construction industry:

Leadership bias: Many leaders harbor misconceptions about the cost and time of creating an impactful worker-wellbeing culture-change initiative.

Others delegate the work of overseeing the effort to their HR personnel and keep a hands-off approach. The lack of executive support then hinders the implementation of mental-health initiatives. Furthermore, management styles that make light of mental health and punish performance decline that may be connected to mental-health concerns affect the workers’ trust in the authenticity of the efforts.

Stigma and fear: Fear of repercussions and stigma surrounding mental-health-care usage, especially among certain demographics, creates barriers to seeking help and fostering open conversations.

Access to and engagement with resources: Disseminating information and resources to field workers and subcontractors who may not actively seek them poses a challenge. Of course, just having resources doesn’t mean that they are trusted or that they are being used. Many organizations were shocked to learn about the woeful underutilization of existing resources like EAPs.

Reactive cultural and industry norms: The construction industry’s fast-paced, production-driven culture often prioritizes reactive care over proactive measures, perpetuating stigma and hindering progress.

Gaps in training and clarification of roles: Lack of training for newly promoted leaders and a need for a better understanding of roles between HR and safety departments contribute to barriers in addressing mental health.

Need to bridge the gap on generational differences and culturally responsive approaches: Challenges arise from diverse age ranges and differing perspectives on mental health, gender roles and toughness, necessitating careful navigation of these issues. In addition, few mental-health resources address the significant language and cultural barriers that exist among diverse ethnicities, most notably the Spanish-speaking workforce.

Streamlining and scaling: Numerous comments noted duplication of efforts and inefficiencies in the development and implementation of initiatives.


In conclusion, the construction industry faces significant challenges in addressing mental health, suicide prevention, overdose prevention and addiction recovery among its workforce. Despite these challenges, progress is being made through initiatives such as the Construction Working Minds Summit, where stakeholders convene to discuss solutions. Strengths include a growing culture of care and increasing awareness, while barriers include stigma and access to resources. Top priorities identified include fostering a culture of care, empowering workers to lead, continual improvement of training efforts, streamlining resource access and monitoring psychosocial hazards.

By collectively addressing these priorities, the industry can better support the wellbeing of its workers.

by Chase Plank, Sally Spencer-Thomas, Cal Beyer
Chase Plank is workplace programs manager and Sally Spencer-Thomas is president of United Suicide Survivors International. Cal Beyer is senior director of SAFE workplaces for SAFE Project. For more information, visit

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