McCarthy Holdings Inc., a national builder and one of America’s 100 largest employee-owned companies, recently announced a new integrated approach to breaking the stigma surrounding mental health to better meet the needs of employees, the craft workforce and their families.
Designed to create more discussion around mental health awareness, acceptance and treatment options, the initiative establishes collaborative strategies and practices across McCarthy’s safety, human resources and operations teams—all under the umbrella of the firm’s award-winning Build for Life health and wellness program.
“Mental health has historically been a challenge across our industry and has been an important part of McCarthy’s health and wellness program,” says Scott Wittkop, McCarthy president and chief operating officer. “The combination of circumstances we encountered during 2020 not only heightened our awareness about mental health and how it impacts our employees and craft professionals, but also their families and our entire industry, both personally and professionally. It’s the reason why we’ve been communicating extensively over the past year about the impact of the pandemic on mental health.
“As one of America’s leading construction companies, we believe it is our responsibility to set the precedent for expanding mental health awareness and increasing conversations to help more people get the assistance they need.”
According to a recent presentation by the construction industry division of insurance brokers Holmes Murphy & Associates, the construction industry is vulnerable to mental health challenges among workers because of various factors ranging from financial and family pressures to workplace injuries, chronic pain and substance abuse. Combined with the stigma and other barriers to seeking care, there is a need to communicate acceptance and offer easy access to getting help. Although less than 50 percent of those with mental illness traditionally seek help, there is an 80 percent success rate of overcoming mental illness with early treatment.
The Mental Health Index provides a measure of the current mental health status of employed adults in a given geography as compiled by Morneau Shepell. According to the December 2020 report, “The mental health of Americans has been significantly lower than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” with construction standing at the seventh lowest mental health score, among 22 industries.
“McCarthy has always cared deeply about the health and safety of our employees and craft workforce. That’s why over the years, we have continued to offer best-in-class benefits and built a safety program that is leading in the industry,” Wittkop says. “When we began to think about increasing awareness of mental health, we considered how a multi-disciplined approach could help us communicate more effectively to the people we need to reach.”
As part of the expanded outreach, McCarthy’s integrated team developed new and updated materials, resources and tools to emphasize and support mental health awareness on job sites and in offices. Materials are available at any time through the company’s intranet and include toolbox talks on mental health, suicide prevention and signage to increase awareness. Helpful information is also available for all employees and families through the McCarthy Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
On job sites, McCarthy is distributing hard hat stickers to all employees with important contact information and conducting meaningful discussions with all teams about the company’s approach to mental health, as well as immediately available resources.
The expanded program—which complements McCarthy’s current digital and telemedicine mental health services and peer-support services—is just a beginning. Future plans range from adding more support, resources and training for managers and employees to considering an evidence-based mental health crisis response system. As an established member of Construction Safety Week, McCarthy will also actively communicate these resources in support of holistic safety during this industry event in May.
Rather than being a stagnant program that is rolled out and reviewed annually, McCarthy intends to proactively evaluate resources to ensure needs are being met to help employees and their families understand and take advantage of resources available to them.
In addition, because McCarthy recognizes that mental health challenges are not exclusive to construction and sharing information benefits everyone, the company is offering to share with companies or organizations in any industry details about its approach and methods, along with posters and toolbox talk materials.
“As a community builder, McCarthy believes that investing in mental health awareness, acceptance and treatment not only benefits our employee-owners, craft professionals and their families, but also the communities where we live and work,” Wittkop adds. “Just like the critical importance of safety on our job sites, the overall health and wellbeing of our employees and their families directly impacts our ability to deliver a great experience on our projects and is vital for the long-term success of our company and industry. Elevating the focus on mental health benefits us all.”