Addressing Mental Health in the Construction Industry


The construction industry is tough. And it attracts tough people – strong, stoic, get-it-done-at-all-costs kind of people. They power through the long days and physically demanding work to build the places we live, work and play.

But sometimes being tough can make it hard to ask for help.  And that can have negative consequences.  Michelle Walker, VP of Finance for Phoenix’s SSC Underground, grew up in a Canadian blue-collar oil town and experienced it firsthand.

 “When I was in high school, my dad’s best friend died by suicide,” Michelle recalls.

She vividly remembers how the stigma of mental illness and suicide made it difficult for her family and the community to process the tragedy.

“Everyone in town knew what had happened, yet no one could bring themselves to talk about the way he died,” she explained. “I saw how it made it difficult for my dad to grieve.” 


The issue came full circle 25 years later at a Construction Finance Management Association (CFMA) conference, when a colleague raised concerns about the prevalence of suicide and mental illness in the industry. At the time the evidence was anecdotal, but it triggered memories for Michelle.

“I think the hook that got me involved from the beginning was when the risk management professional described the stigma around mental health issues,” Michelle recalled. “People were experiencing mental health conditions and were fearful of seeking treatment because of the impact on their career,” 


Shortly after, a 2016 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study confirmed her fears: the construction industry, along with mining, quarry and oil, had the highest rate and overall number of suicides across all occupations.

That revelation prompted Michelle and her colleagues to create the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP).


Michelle (as acting chairman) and CIASP members work directly with industry associations, contractors, unions and partners to make mental health issues and suicide prevention an integral part of safety programs. 

One of their main goals is to remove the longstanding stigma and fear that prevents workers from getting treatment. “We need to equate mental health with physical health,” she says. “I envision an industry where a worker will feel just as safe saying, ‘I’m having trouble,’ as does a worker in Arizona in getting a spot on the arm checked for skin cancer.”


Part of removing that stigma includes changing the words we use. Michelle explained that saying someone  “committed suicide” or “are depressed or anxious” creates a sense of judgement and labels the person versus describing the condition they are experiencing. Instead, she suggests saying things like “a person is experiencing depression, living with anxiety or died by suicide.”

Human Resources departments can also make a difference by consistently including mental health in company benefits and safety processes.  At SSC Underground, these topics are addressed regularly in company meetings, and behavioral health options are included in annual benefits enrollment.

“Because the construction industry is safety conscious and already has vehicles in place where leaders can discuss mental health and suicide, it has helped to expand the engagement and awareness,” Michelle says.


Michelle’s greatest satisfaction is the impact that these practices can have on employees’ lives. One example of that, she said, was a long-time employee who suddenly started calling in sick a lot and behaving inappropriately. Rather than terminating the worker, he was given a second chance and help to find a counselor. After six weeks, he completed counseling and remains an employee to this day, thankful for what he learned and the improvement he made through counseling.

You can hear more from Michelle on this important topic in our webinar on mental health issues on the jobsite. Thank you Michelle for making a big impact on our industry.

Employers can find mental health and suicide prevention resources from the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention at


Read the original article on Cat.

What Our Clients Say:

  • “My experience with the SSC was positive. Their professionalism, efficiency, and commitment to customer service made me feel confident in their ability to handle my construction needs. I would definitely recommend their services to others in need of a reliable construction office.”

    Kyler Colin, General Managing Partner, Phoenix Water Solutions

  • “I was impressed with the communication and appreciate SSC’s help to get this potholing done in a quick and professional manner.”

    Lynne Stocker, Assistant Project Manager, Garney Construction

  • “Workers were very knowledgeable about how to find the utilities despite differences in the drawings and actual field conditions. Very helpful in going above and beyond by working with us.”

    Johnathan Hoffman, Assistant Project Manager, City of Sedona

  • “Their collaboration with my team on large-scale infrastructure upgrade projects has been exceptional. Their expertise and professionalism have been invaluable in delivering successful outcomes. I highly recommend SSC Underground to any organization in need of top-notch services.”

    Ben Kooinga, Project Manager

  • “The Crew from SSC went above and beyond to locate our water line that turned out to be more challenging than originally expected.”

    Kevin Tallman, Director of Construction, Shane Co Jewelers

  • “SSC is accommodating and punctual.”

    Jeff Strasser, Managing Partner-Custom Structures LLC

  • “We had a project in North Scottsdale that had to be completed while school was out for Christmas break. I gave SSC one week notice and sent them plans with over 80 potholes. They jumped right on it and completed the work for us to meet our deadline. Everyone from Michelle and Arvid in the […]

    Kelley Hlavsa, Project Manager, Achen Gardner Construction

  • “Really appreciate you helping us with our boring need. The drilling crew did a great job and completed the entire job above and beyond our expectations, without any issues. We look forward to working with you again if any such need arises in future.”

    Satya Chataut, BHP

  • “Arvid, you and your team performed a difficult task with precision and safety at the forefront. Well done and thank you for all of your efforts.”

    Kelly Haberly, B&F Contracting

  • “Just wanted to reach out and say thank you for your crews’ work today at Asante Well #4. They were safe, professional, and went above and beyond making sure the site was cleaned up after they left. Please pass my thanks onto your crew.”

    JT Core, Felix Construction

  • “Just wanted to say thank you for the safety culture your company has. It’s a breath of fresh air to see other companies embracing being safe. I sat in on your crews’ safety meeting this morning prior to the start of their work on Ray Rd. “

    Scott Nunemaker – Vice President, RCCM

  • “Kuddos to your guys. Not once has any of your foreman’s EVER put up a fuss when I’ve asked them to work a little late. Response is always “whatever you want and we’ll stay as long as you need us to.” I really appreciate all the hard work they do for me.”

    Travis Barrick – Field Supervisor, Felix Construction

  • “A big thank you to SSC for jumping on this quickly as they did to help the team get this information so quickly. It’s much appreciated and was pretty impressive to see 5 separate potholing crews descend upon Rio Salado the way they did today!”

    Christopher Laute, Resident Engineer, Valley Metro

  • We’ve used SSC for a number of years and I’ve been very pleased. Thanks and keep up the great work.

    Dave Klann, Staff Engineer, Mactec

  • SSC did a great job. Their assistance during pre-construction was greatly appreciated and differentiated them from the competition. Keep doing what you do best!

    Jim Drago, Sundt Construction

  • I called with short notice to some work and SSC responded immediately. In this market, dollars seem to control everything and quality of people and work seem to have diminished. The professionalism and hard work of your crew takes me back to when people knew what they were doing and cared. Intelligent guys that work […]

    Lonnie Ferguson, Project Manager, Construction 70

  • As a civil engineering consultant, I usually recommend your services but rarely use them with the exception being vacuum excavating. I have attended your seminars in the past and find them very helpful. I recommend continuing the education to make designers better. If we understand and know how to specify your service, we are more […]

    Bill Gasque, Sr. Civil Engineer, Dowl HKM

  • SSC handled the project perfectly even went above to schedule directly with the gas company, made my job easier.

    Tony Smith, Owner, Western Underground

  • You and your staff are always responsive to our needs and make sure you clearly understand the scope of the work in advance, so there are no surprises. I really appreciate that attitude.

    Michael Rhodes, Civil Engineer, Gila River Indian Community

  • Overall a good company. Very professional in approach and execution of work. Courtesy and respect shown by all personnel, a welcome rarity in the business. Keep doing what you’re doing, and thank you.

    M. Gartner, Project Manager, Sybrant Construction

  • Your field crew did a great job!

    Nick Nikrant, Project Manager, Builders Guild

  • Crew was courteous & helpful.

    Jayde Bullard, Project Manager, Caljet of America, LLC.

  • This is the second time working with this foreman. Will request him again. Easy to work with.

    David Willett, Aero Automatic Sprinkler Co.

  • Superb foreman…Exceptional!

    Curtis Briggs, Shea Homes

  • Great work! SSC was timely, responsive and professional. I would use them again.

    Stewart Vaghti, Project Engineer, Gannett Fleming, Inc.

  • I have always had good and quick service from SSC.

    Sally Raymer, Sundt Construction

  • Arvid was very accommodating in getting crew onsite within 2 hours of my call.

    Dennis Sime, Project Superintendent, Hunter Contracting

  • First I want to express once again how impressed I am with you and your support group. You are all “top notch.” Yes the job went well and I appreciate your help. It really made a huge difference on such a critical facility. I still can’t believe (even though I saw it with my own […]

    David McKinley, VFC-Arizona

  • Great service on short notice. Thanks!

    Richard Komzelman, Carson Construction

  • The entire SSC crew was extremely professional and flexible. All of your company’s efforts are greatly appreciated and you will be our boring subcontractor on any future projects.

    Ben Myers, Project Manager, GRG Construction

  • Your team made this challenging casing push a success.

    Michael Fossett, Project Manager, SDB Inc.

  • Extensive knowledge of the local soil conditions coupled with their proven skills has insured that every job is completed within our schedule and budget. We’ve worked with SSC for many years and always found them to more than equal our high required standards and able to complete any task.

    Brian Chavez, Chief Estimator/Project Manager, Tyers Contracting

  • I would like to thank you for your prompt response to our urgent need for your services. The men you sent did a fantastic and quick bore. We do so appreciate your company for that. Thanks!

    Patricia Riggs, Town of Gila Bend

  • Our job was especially challenging. The SSC team worked six days, around the clock and the testimony to the success of their efforts is that the general public never knew they were here. An additional thanks to SSC for their professional courtesy. In our industry, it is something I do not encounter often enough.

    Chris McCoy, Superintendent, Gilbane Building Company

  • Your project manpower’s knowledge, attitude, safety and work ethic are outstanding!

    Mike Levi, Estimator/Project Manager, Holloman Corporation