6 minute read




For many of us in the construction industry, mental health awareness is often a neglected aspect of worker health and safety — but it’s never a bad time to be proactive and take charge of our well-being as it pertains to mental health and self-awareness. As the year begins, many of us are focused on recent objectives, goals, and initiatives. For others, the sparkle of the new year fades as additional challenges develop and the “attempt to change for the better” is slowly forgotten. In construction, however, we need to remain sharp, especially to maintain safe jobsites.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as, "[a] state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community."

How can we incorporate well-being and mental health into our everyday processes? We can start by examining it through our physical, emotional, internal, and external experiences.




Improving diet, prioritizing exercise, improving sleep patterns, and taking time to relax are critical steps to engage your body’s response to stressors — and to create meaningful outcomes. Simple things like listening to music, going for a walk, and meditation are all physical ways to improve your mental health.

Positive psychological well-being can reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, poor mental health can lead to poor physical health or harmful behaviors and chronic diseases. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have reported a significant increase in depression, which has been linked to numerous chronic illnesses.


Emotional and mental health are intertwined and often treated interchangeably. The emotional side focuses on being in tune and aligned with our emotions, vulnerability, and authenticity. Having a good foundation of emotional health is a fundamental aspect of fostering resilience, self-awareness, and overall contentment. Characteristics of good emotional health are strong self-awareness (with focus on accountability and accurate perception), emotional agility, strong coping skills, living with a purpose, and the ability to manage stress.


Internal struggles can develop from stressors, deflection, and suppression, and each one can affect how we think, feel, and act. Some common internal stressors include an inability to accept uncertainty, pessimism, negative self-talk, unrealistic expectations, lack of flexibility, rigid thinking, and a need to always be perfect. We then may react with deflection to either throw others off course or mask a situation. Another response is to suppress feelings and thoughts. Stressors and deflection are internal responses that occur automatically and without mental effort — but suppression is a controlled, conscious effort that requires mental resources.


Mental health issues also present themselves in external ways. Unlike internal struggles, these issues have direct impacts and results that can be recognized by other people. Lack of sleep, unhealthy food, and alcohol can all affect your body externally. Alcohol has an effect on neurotransmitters, changing how your body would normally operate. Another recently identified factor that affects people externally is social media, which many have found to have the most profound effect on our mental wellness.

To remedy some of these external effects, people are often encouraged to spend time in the sunlight to manufacture vitamin D, connect with people to prevent loneliness, and find a way to review positive and informative social media posts while avoiding negative stories.

The external factors discussed here can lead to direct and indirect behavioral changes. If not addressed, they can activate aggression, pattern shifts, and inconsistent responses — all behaviors that can negatively impact problem-solving skills and cognitive thinking.


Take the following steps to improve your mental health and develop cognitive, emotional, social, and physical resilience for a fulfilling life:

• Adapt to change – remain flexible and open minded

• Establish your immediate circle to surround you with healthy and inspiring relationships

• Increase your self-esteem – take time to reflect on yourself to feel valued and empowered

• Feel secure – be comfortable with your decisions

• Practice living a balanced life – remember that it’s okay to say “no” to things

• Encourage self-confidence by believing in yourself and pushing for personal growth

• Remember the “3 R’s philosophy” – Rest, Recharge, Reset

• Prioritize health, whether it’s physical, emotional, or mental



In the construction industry, we make decisions every day. Sometimes our decisions are based on previous memories, education, or newly gained insights. We are presented with challenges, opportunities, and experiences that need our attention and we have to be able to face these encounters with clarity. We have many engineered and administrative tools that support our work to keep us safe. We have compliance standards that are expected to be followed to ensure safe operations. The one tool that needs the attention to detail, repeated care, and support isn’t on the worksite; it’s not in the job box or in your work truck — it’s your mind. Your mind is the most important, the most powerful, and the most impactful tool you have; it is carried by you and serviced by you, and you rely upon it day in and day out.

Your mind is the most important, the most powerful, and the most impactful tool you have.


Taking steps to make positive changes in your life and improve your situation starts with knowing where to find available resources. These resources start at the local level and extend to county, state, and national levels. Your company may have an Employee Assistance Program to connect with and get support. Phone apps such as Calm, MoodKit, and iBreathe can assist with planning and supporting your goals and needs. Your community — family, friends, churches, community organizations — may also be able to connect you with helpful resources or provide you with the support that you need.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or mental-health related distress, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8.