October 10, 2023
World Mental Health Day 2023 is an opportunity for people and communities to unite behind the theme "mental health is a universal human right” to improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health.
It goes without saying that everyone was left with broad, lasting effects from the Covid-19 pandemic. The AEC industry is not immune to mental health struggles, whether they stem from work or our personal lives. Did you know that a 2020 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by the Centers for Disease Control found the construction industry to have the second-highest suicide rate out of all major US industries? In a separate 2022 Data Bulletin posted by The Center for Construction Research & Training, it was found that 14.3% of workers struggled with anxiety and nearly 6% struggled with depression.
The Architects' Journal in Australia reported in 2018, pre-pandemic, that "long hours, volatile and sporadic workloads, tight deadlines and demanding clients," all take a toll on our mental well-being.
According to College International pour la Recherche en Productique (CIRP), mental illness is now the leading cause of disability in the workplace. According to CIRP’s research, 83% of construction industry workers have experienced some form of moderate to severe mental health issue. This research also showed that construction workers had high rates of early childhood trauma (90%) as well as undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (70%).
Another 2020 study conducted by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers showed of 163 workers who participated in a Professional Engineering survey on mental health, more than three-quarters (77.8%) said their work is often stressful, while over half (53.7%) said workplace stress has had a negative effect on their mental health or well-being. Most shocking, however, is that nearly 70% of engineers have gone into work while feeling emotionally unwell.
Indeed, good mental health is vital to our overall health and well-being. Yet one in eight people globally are living with mental health conditions, which can impact their physical health, well-being, how they connect with others, and their livelihoods. Mental health conditions also affect an increasing number of adolescents and young people.
In recent years, there has been increasing acknowledgement of the important role mental health plays in achieving global development goals, as illustrated by the inclusion of mental health in the WHO Sustainable Development Goals. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability; suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds; and, people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to preventable physical conditions.
Many mental health conditions can be effectively treated at relatively low cost, yet the gap between people needing care and those with access to care remains substantial. Effective treatment coverage remains extremely low.
WHO continues to work with its partners to ensure mental health is valued, promoted, and protected, and that urgent action is taken so that everyone can exercise their human rights and access the quality mental health care they need.