The stand down recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Flatiron halted construction for one hour as workers learned to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and mental health disorders, including suicidal ideation, from which construction workers are disproportionally inclined to suffer.
(AGC of California photo)
On Monday, May 16, Associated General Contractors of California, along with Flatiron Construction, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Southern California District Council of Laborers of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA!) and the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) held a Mental Health Awareness Stand Down and called on the construction industry as a whole to recognize the importance of mental health for worker's safety and well-being.
"These unprecedented times have increased awareness of the importance of mental health at home — and now AGC of California and the construction industry can play a vital role in elevating the conversation about the importance of mental health at work," said Peter Tateishi, chief executive officer of AGC of California. "We want every person on every job site to feel supported both physically and emotionally. Safety and mental health go hand in hand — and we stand down today to acknowledge that there is help for those who are suffering."
The stand down, which took place at Flatiron's I-5 Oso Parkway Project, recognizes May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Flatiron halted construction for one hour as workers learned to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and mental health disorders, including suicidal ideation, from which construction workers are disproportionally inclined to suffer.
"We need to foster a work environment where we are able to recognize when colleagues are struggling with anxiety, stress, depression or other mental health issues," said Dale Nelson, senior vice president of Flatiron. "We need confidence, compassion and strength to respond appropriately and promptly. Let's use this opportunity to remind ourselves to bring ‘our best selves' to work each day and encourage colleagues to do the same."
AGC of California developed a complete toolkit and tutorial, available online, for construction employers to educate all employees about the importance of mental health. The free toolkit includes talking points to encourage any employee to reach out for help if they are suffering issues related to substance abuse, suicidal ideation, depression and other mental health concerns. It also is designed to help employers identify and convey support resources (such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255) and company-specific plans, such as employee assistance programs.
"The Orange County Transportation Authority could not be successful without the tremendous dedication of the men and women who lace up their boots and do the hard work every day to enhance our streets, freeways and our entire transportation network, which keeps our residents, workers and visitors moving safely," said Darrell E. Johnson, chief executive officer of OCTA. "The well-being of construction workers is of critical importance, and I encourage them to focus on their health — mental and physical — and take advantage of every resource available. To those workers: We support you and want to see you remain healthy and strong."
AGC of California hopes the stand down will inspire other construction companies to initiate their own mental health awareness stand downs. AGC of California's toolkit includes suggestions on how companies can host their own successful stand downs to support employees suffering from distress.
"The next step is to bridge the gap from increasing awareness of the issue and starting conversations to developing interventions, programs and resources that help those affected," said Peter Santillan, secretary-treasurer of Southern California District Council of Laborers of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA!). "It only makes sense that LIUNA and its signatory contractors build on these opportunities to promote worker mental health and well-being throughout the construction industry. It's encouraging to see such a positive cultural shift in how mental health is finally being addressed in the industry."
About Southern California District Council of Laborers, LiUNA!
Southern California District Council of Laborers is a chartered district council of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). The District Council has 12 affiliated locals. The objectives of the District Council are to unite the local unions within its jurisdiction in order to advance the economic and other interests of the membership and seek continued improvements in the terms of the collective bargaining agreements.
LiUNA! members are on the forefront of the construction industry a sector that is made up of 12 million workers producing 5 percent of the country's economic output. LiUNA! also is one of the most diverse and effective unions representing public service employees. A half-million strong, LiUNA! members are united through collective bargaining agreements which help earn family-supporting pay, good benefits and the opportunity for advancement and better lives.
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