Understanding the Mental Health Crisis in the Construction Industry

RT-401 Topic Summary
RT 401


The growing rate of suicide and other mental health concerns have pushed the construction industry to take serious actions toward protecting and improving the well-being of its employees. However, mental health-related issues are incredibly personal, medically complex, and resource-intensive. As such, Research Team 401 (RT-401) sought to find what companies should and should not do when it comes to their employees’ mental health.

In the current environment of global trends in poor mental health, many individuals masquerade as “experts” to sell silver-bullet solutions. They promise an impossible range of outcomes, from improving employees’ resilience against mental health issues to even disrupting suicide ideation. As non-medical experts, construction professionals understandably can underplay the likelihood that ill-planned interventions can, at best, result in nothing but, at worst, cause further harm. To this end, this research project aimed to equip professionals in the industry with knowledge on not only what needs to be done but also how to avoid falling prey to ineffective and ill-conceived solutions.

RT-401 was a joint venture undertaken by CII and the Construction Safety Research Alliance (CSRA). By using validated literature from medical sciences and behavioral psychology, and by collecting survey data from 1,200 construction workers actively employed in the industry, the team created a guide that answers the following questions:

  1. Why does the construction industry need to act to improve the mental health of its employees?
  2. Why should the industry not engage in solutions that seek to diagnose and treat the mental health of individuals?
  3. What is the industry doing specifically that is harming the mental health of its employees?
  4. How should the industry respond?
  5. How should management measure the success of interventions and solutions?
  6. How can the industry avoid furthering harm?

The resulting report, Mental Health: Where do we start? A Guide for the Construction Industry, is available free of charge below or through the CSRA site. This report uses the collected evidence to answer these questions and provide guidance on where organizations can place their limited resources on this serious issue:

  • Across all demographical groups (work type, age, ethnicity), the work-related stressors and wellness outcomes desired by employees in the industry were consistent.
  • The data also showed mixed results for peer support (a popular intervention being peddled by many consultants). This finding is consistent with evidence from medical science, which shows it to be marginally effective at best.

The team’s guide discusses these findings to provide a pathway for practitioners who are interested in addressing this crisis: not only by taking action, but also by judging the success or failure of any investment made with preset standards. The guide is open source to promote transparency and encourage debate, and to combat consultants who aim to sell debunked self-help solutions within the industry. An issue as serious as mental health deserves scrutiny from everyone involved to ensure we do not further harm.


Related Academic Publication (not published by CII)
CII does not review or endorse this publication, which was published independently, but added it here because it was directly or indirectly supported by the CII research project. Users may need to pay to access this piece.

Bhandari, S., Sherratt, F., and Stoddard, E. (2023). “A Critical Assessment of Mental Health Research in Construction Industry.” The International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction. Porto, Portugal: 2023 Digital Transformation of Health and Safety in Construction Conference.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : The Top Three Work-related Stressors Were Consistent

Academic literature has identified tens of different stressors that affect the mental health of individuals, but RT-401 found that, across all demographic groups, the top three work-related stressors were consistent (see the figure). The guide scopes out which stressors are truly powerful and leverages research conducted in the field of medicine, psychology, and construction to give them context (FR-401, p. 11).

Reference: (FR-401)

2 : The Top Three Wellness Outcomes Were Also Consistent

RT-401 found that, across all demographic groups, three wellness outcomes were consistently most desired by employees (see the figure). The guide positions these outcomes as performance metrics against which to judge the quality of interventions launched to improve the mental health and well-being of employees (FR-401, p. 16).

Reference: (FR-401)

Key Performance Indicators

Research Publications

Mental Health: Where do we start? A Guide for the Construction Industry - FR-401

Publication Date: 10/2023 Type: Final Report Pages: 30 Status: Reference

Presentations from CII Events

Session - Mental Health Is Serious Business – An Approach Based on Evidence

Publication Date: 08/2023 Presenter: Number of Slides: 35 Event Code: AC23