May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Construction Safety Week starts May 6, so it’s an important time to raise awareness of physical safety on job sites to prevent injuries or fatalities. When we think about safety, we think of standard equipment: hard hats; safety glasses, boots, and gloves; ear protection; high-vis vests… the list goes on. But what about mental health? What safety procedures do we have in place to protect what’s under the hard hat?

How Mental Health Relates to Physical Safety

A mental health-related challenge doesn’t have to mean a diagnosed mental illness. Our mental health can be impacted by stress, grief, fear, uncertainty, worry, lonliness, and more. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental health challenge at some point in their life. Additionally, families are affected by and impact each other’s mental health. NAMI also reports that more than 8 million Americans provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue. What we know is that mental health-related challenges are broad and affect almost everyone either directly or through their family.

So how does this relate to physical safety? A person’s concentration and judgement are impacted by challenges to our mental health, whether they’re preoccupied with their own struggles or a family member’s In construction, when you’re working with heavy machinery, in potentially dangerous conditions, and/or with other people who rely on you for their own safety, being distracted can lead to injuries or fatalities. If people turn to substance use to cope with stress or physical injuries, without support, it’s possible for that behavior to lead to misuse and workplace impairment or overdose.

Because we work closely with construction workers at Youturn Health, we have a lot of first-hand anecdotal evidence about the link between mental health and physical safety: Being distracted by a loved one’s welfare leads to a lapse in safety protocols, a violent incident related to workplace bullying, an opioid overdose on a job site, or a construction worker in a mental health crisis considering suicide at work. These incidents unfortunately may sound familiar, but by addressing employee mental health regularly throughout the year, employers can drastically improve the wellbeing of their employees.

What to Do About It

Check in With Your Employees

You don’t have to be a therapist. You don’t have to have the answer to their struggles. But check in with your employees regularly so you can more easily identify when someone may need help. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Watch for signs of someone struggling (e.g., a drastic change in behavior), and ask if they have a minute to talk. Find a private place to have a conversation and ask them how they’re doing.

Here’s an example: If a normally on-time, productive employee starts showing up late, seeming distracted, and withdrawing from other people, ask them if they have a minute to talk. Find a place where the two of you can talk uninterrupted like the office or even your work truck. Start the conversation with by saying something like, “I noticed you haven’t been yourself lately, and I just wanted to make sure you’re okay. What’s going on in your world?”

Just listen to what they have to say. Use supportive statements like “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I can see how that’s stressful.” If they’re receptive to getting help, give them information on the mental health resources your company provides. If they don’t want to go through company resources, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has a lot of information and emotional support for mental health; it’s okay to call this hotline for support even if you’re not thinking about suicide.

Talk About Mental Health All Year Round

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a great time to advocate for an open dialogue and share resources about mental health. But it’s only one month, and to make a real impact, we need to talk about mental health regularly and openly to break down the stigma that keeps people from getting help.

It’s important for the company’s leadership to have regular conversations with employees about mental health. If you’ve dealt with mental-health related challenges in the past, share how you got help and what resources you used. Host toolbox talks to provide education about types of mental-health related challenges and how to address them. Give employees mental health resources that are easy to use and emphasize which ones are confidential. Make it easy for employees to access those resources discreetly (e.g., post a flyer in porta-john so someone can take a picture of it or scan a QR code).


Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s a great time to go scouting for resources and ideas that can help you make mental health a year-round topic at your company.

Mental Health America has a toolkit, stats, tests, and information on overall mental health.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has a crisis hotline and texting service, and their website provides resources for Spanish-speaking individuals, the Black community, veterans, the LGBTQIA+ community, disaster survivors, the deaf & hard of hearing, veterans, the neurodivergent, and more.

For resources specific to construction, Construction Safety Week has downloadable toolkits and toolbox talks about mental health in the workplace.

If you’re a member of Youturn Health’s construction program, we have leadership training courses on how to communicate about mental health, approach an employee about their mental health or substance use, and talk about suicide prevention. All members of Youturn Health also have access to our Stress Management, Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma courses to get a baseline understanding of core mental health struggles. (Log in to your Youturn Health account to access any of the courses mentioned in this paragraph.)

We also have public resource pages for Stress Management and Burnout, Suicide Prevention, Grief and Trauma, and Substance Misuse.