Swinerton’s holistic view of safety recognizes how staying attentive and offering support can make a different with the less tangible risks in the construction industry.

By David Bolt, Strategic Talent Partner

Three simple words—“I need help”—can be some of the most challenging to say when we’re struggling, whether it’s on the job, with our families, or our own health. When we add in the stigma and shame surrounding mental health, things can feel even tougher. The silent nature of this struggle means we often can’t access our usual support system or coping methods. In most cases, when dealing with mental health related issues, the first time we truly pay attention is when something goes terribly wrong.

What National and Industry Trends Say

In the United States, approximately one out of five people deals with a mental health issue daily. This can range from people who have are having acute issues to others who experience ongoing challenges. If this 20% statistic holds true for Swinerton as a company, that would mean roughly 800 people are struggling with some aspect of their mental health on any given day.

The unfortunate reality is that the construction industry has some of the highest mental health issues for employees and the second highest suicide rate—the ultimate expression of someone struggling in silence. There are many reasons for this, some being that our industry traditionally has valued toughness and strength, and where seeking help may be seen as a weakness. We have high stress and hard deadlines, and we work long hours, often away from our families and friends.

These conditions can make us especially vulnerable to mental health challenges and increase our need to be vigilant about how we and our coworkers are coping on and off the job.

What Are Some Signs of Struggle?

Prior to my career in Talent in the construction industry, I was a social worker. I worked with people in a variety of settings from child protective services to clinical services at therapeutic sites. While the places I worked were different, the needs of the people were always the same: we need to feel cared for, connected, and safe.

Even though I don’t practice as a social worker anymore, I still find the people I work with in construction settings have the same issues and needs. We often hide our struggles, yet struggles still find ways to show up. In the working world, these signs of struggling might range from extreme irritability and anger to withdrawing and isolating ourselves. Problems with alcohol and substances are also frequently used to hide the pain we’re feeling inside. Other common signs are frequently forgetting information, being obsessed with the same thoughts, or nonstop worrying.

What Can We Do?

It’s key to know that when we need help, there are ways to seek support. At Swinerton, we encourage our people to be on the lookout for signs of struggle in coworkers. This doesn’t require anyone to have a background in mental health or psychology; it also doesn’t mean diagnosing someone with a problem or asking about their mental health.

Instead, we encourage our people on the jobsite and in the office to listen and remain attentive to how fellow employees are doing. Have there been changes in behavior, or has something concerning happened? Has someone admitted that they are struggling with something? If so, reach out and offer your support.

Offering support as a friend or someone who cares is the first step in breaking the stigma of mental health issues—particularly in the construction industry—and increases the chances of someone getting help. At Swinerton, all employees have access to free, confidential services through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) called CONCERN.

Finding methods for better self care such as exercise, getting more sleep, and eating better can also improve well-being. In trying times, it’s important that we be there for each other and offer support. You never know when you might need the same help someday.

Signs of Struggling

Everyone needs help sometimes. Changes to your thoughts, moods, or body that make it hard to manage work, school, home, or relationships for more than two weeks may indicate a need for help. Everyone’s situation is different, but here are some common signs to look out for. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’ve experienced the following for more than two weeks:

Very worried, afraid, sad, or down

Much more angry or irritated than normal

Big mood changes, including highs and lows

Tired or low energy

Like you can’t manage everything you need to do in a day

About suicide (call or text 988 to talk with a trained counselor any time day or night)

That feel all mixed up or that things aren’t real

Trouble focusing or remembering things

All about one thing (like how you look, drinking, that something bad will happen to you, or any other idea you can’t get out of your head)

Focusing only on getting and using alcohol or drugs

Times you felt sick and didn’t know why (for example, headaches, stomachaches, and aches and pains that keep coming back)

Changes in how you sleep

Changes in your eating (for example, you’ve been very hungry—or not hungry at all)

Needing to use drugs or alcohol more and more often to keep from getting sick

Not taking care of yourself, like not showering or cleaning your living space, or skipping doctor’s visits

Having consequences from your behavior because of changes to your mental health or using drugs or alcohol (like having issues at work, losing friendships, or forgetting your commitments)

Becoming involved with the legal system because of changes to your mental health or using drugs or alcohol

Having trouble understanding or relating to the people in your life

Avoiding friends, family, and social activities

Changing friends often in a short time


To speak with a trained crisis counselor any time of day or night, call or text the free crisis hotline at 988 or chat

If you are feeling thoughts of immediate self-harm or suicide, please call emergency services at 911.

As a Strategic Talent Partner, David Bolt supports the growth and development of Swinerton’s leadership, teams, and individuals on the East Coast in alignment with Swinerton’s national goals. He brings a strong background in mental health research and advocacy to his work, and is passionate about cultivating a positive employee experience.