How to promote mental health for your workforce

Updated Dec 6, 2019
Photo: PexelsPhoto: Pexels

Mental wellness is a crucial component of one’s overall health, but it doesn’t always receive adequate attention. People are often afraid to speak up about their struggles because of internal and external stigmas. They believe it’s weak to show such vulnerability, or they worry co-workers will treat them differently. All these concerns result from public attitudes and preconceptions about mental illness.

These beliefs run rampant in the trades, where workers value resilience. Therefore, landscaping businesses must learn to push past outdated ideas on mental health to help struggling employees. People deserve healthy workplace environments where they can seek guidance if necessary. Learn how to make that possible for your team by checking out the facts and implementing new policies.

Examining the statistics

The landscaping industry’s close ties with construction become apparent in their shared statistics concerning mental health. Though many workers deal with suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms, most of them don’t seek help. A study of Australian construction workers revealed that 75.1 percent of them have assisted someone in a mental health crisis but never asked for help themselves.

The close-knit quality of many landscaping businesses — especially smaller ones — encourages colleagues to look out for each other. However, many are still reluctant to discuss their own mental or emotional issues. How might employers facilitate open workspaces where people share advice and experiences without shame?

The opioid crisis has become a major concern within the past few years, and this is true in the trades, too. A CDC report from 2018 showed that construction was the leading industry in drug overdose fatalities from 2007 to 2012. Most of the workers who passed away from overdoses were men in their 30s and 40s.

Past and present statistics show that mental health support in landscaping and construction need an overhaul. Fortunately, many businesses are joining the cause to promote a better quality of life for workers. Before doing the same for your company, educate yourself and your employees on the effects mental conditions can have on your wellness.

Effects of mental health crises

Mental health issues put a significant damper on productivity, and this issue proves unavoidable no matter the industry. One can’t function at their best when they’re tired, discouraged or disinterested. The inability to perform well at work can make these feelings worse by stirring up guilt and shame. These emotions and their resulting behaviors quickly turn into a tough cycle to break free from for many workers.

Mental health issues and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand because of people self-medicating to relieve their distress. This coping method causes dependency on drugs to escape emotional pain, which quickly spirals into an addiction for many. It’s vital to help individuals before they reach this level — up to 60 percent of people who suffer addiction relapse. Once the dependency begins, it’s difficult to end.

What preventative steps can your business take?

The risk associated with physical work is one reason mental health concerns are prominent in trade industries. Workplace injuries can be a major predictor of the onset of a mental health crisis. These injuries often exacerbate underlying problems like depression and anxiety, making it difficult for employees to adjust to a new lifestyle.

Chronic pain and head trauma can cause mental illness because of their permanence, but even temporary impairment can affect a worker’s emotional state. To maintain a safe working environment, always make sure your employees wear protective gear, and thoroughly train them on using their tools.

Landscaping safety can help your workers feel protected and reduce the risk that workplace injury will lead to related mental health concerns. Of course, this isn’t the only way to promote mental health. Business owners can also adopt policies to help workers manage their existing concerns and feel supported in the workplace.

Promoting mental health in the industry

Make space for your employees to share how they feel and what they’re struggling with. This concept is more about mental and emotional space than physical space. Open communication will help employees feel empowered to express concerns to their managers. Leaders can even organize support groups for employees to reach out to each other and build stronger relationships.

Provide resources for workers to use in educating themselves or seeking help for mental health issues. A lot of the stigma surrounding mental illness comes from a lack of knowledge. If people knew the realities of it, they’d be more sympathetic to the battle. You can offer on-site counseling services for employees who don’t have access to treatment outside of work.

Provide accommodations such as flexible work times and less strenuous assignments for employees dealing with mental illness. If workers need to take time off to immerse themselves in treatment, have a return-to-work program ready to assist them. Seeking treatment is only half the battle — the other half comes with reintegration into the workplace. A practical employee assistance program will help them restart their duties without feeling ostracized or judged.

Be aware that employees aren’t always eager to disclose their problems. Keep plenty of available resources on-hand if they aren’t ready to talk to you about it. Once they build courage, listen to their concerns, and try to understand. Prioritize their comfort and emotions without prying or sounding overly critical.

Influence changes for better mental health

The trades, including landscaping, must contend with a history of employee mental health crises. Become part of the change by reviewing your business’s mental wellness practices. Add more policies or change old ones to better fit employee needs.

Mental health conditions don’t have to be the skeleton in the closet any longer. Support your workers and supply the resources they need to transform their lives. Everyone can benefit from acknowledging their struggles and seeking treatment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Holly Welles. Welles is a freelance writer with an emphasis on home improvement, business and commercial real estate. She regularly contributes to sites like Construction Executive as well as publishing weekly updates on her own home improvement blog, The Estate Update.

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