An associate professor in the Colorado State University Department of Construction Management was awarded a grant to assess construction workers’ mental health and enable the creation of programs to improve not only their mental health, but overall well-being. CM Associate Professor Mohammed Hashem Mehany is leading the project, which aims to help address concerns in the industry about worker mental health. The grant was awarded by the Center for Construction Research and Training, part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Services.
Mehany has a broad background in the construction industry, with specific training and expertise in construction management and engineering. His research includes worker safety, worker safety education, and workforce development, among other specialties. The co-investigator for the grant is Associate Professor Gwenith Fisher, in the CSU Department of Psychology, and doctoral student, Shantanu Kumar serves as the research assistant for the project.
Mental health concerns of construction craft professionals
Mental health and well-being among construction craft professionals is a major concern for multiple reasons, including an elevated suicide rate in the industry. Though valuable contributions are evident in some countries regarding the mental health improvement for construction craft professionals, it is still a largely overlooked research area in the United States.
The U.S. construction industry employs more than 7 million workers by over 680,000 employers and contributes nearly $1.3 trillion towards the U.S. GDP (about 6.3%). While numerous research studies have been undertaken to address the construction craft professional safety improvement by attending to their physical well-being, seldom has the crafts’ mental health been addressed. The construction industry has always been perceived as being full of strong individuals who should have no problems dealing with physical and mental health issues.
This research aims to address the lack of comprehensive mental health data for U.S. construction workers and help to identify vulnerable construction trades. The grant will support a mental health assessment of construction craft professionals and offer suitable recommendations. The goal of the project is to enable the U.S. construction industry to understand what mental health problems persist in the workforce and use the results to create programs to facilitate improved mental health in construction organizations.
This project builds on a strong multidisciplinary approach between the construction and psychology disciplines to address “mental health” as one of the most important issues affecting the U.S. construction industry. The primary objectives are to:
- Identify mental health problems and associated initiatives for their mitigation.
- Assess and identify mental health issues/concerns among construction craft professionals.
- Develop recommended organizational and individual worker-level responses for mental health issues.
A secondary objective will attempt to explore how gender and cultural or ethnic perspectives relate to mental health problems. It is an interdisciplinary effort that combines Mehany’s construction research background and Fisher’s psychology background to assess the mental health in construction craft professionals.
The research approach consists of a four-phased methodology:
- A comprehensive literature review of mental health and workplace mental health;
- Collecting data from construction craft professionals to assess mental health and well-being using new technology and metrics;
- Identifying appropriate organizational interventions to address issues with poor mental health and well-being;
- Disseminating results to CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training, construction industry partners, and relevant academic audiences.