B.C. construction industry helps shape COVID-19 mental health toolkit

Journal of Commerce | Russell Hixson | September 9, 2020

The BC Municipal Safety Association (BCMSA) has partnered with the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA) and others to develop and roll out a free psychological support toolkit for workers and their families who may be struggling with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of what the worker is facing is the environment and things around them, which is bringing more stress into the workplace,” said Mike Roberts, executive director of the BCMSA and the program’s creator. “I wanted a resource toolkit people could use…for discussion about some of the common things we are hearing from industry and others. I wanted to give people the opportunity to network and have conversations about COVID-19 and its impacts on multiple different industries.”

The centrepiece of the toolkit will be a five-part virtual summit that brings together industry experts to start a dialogue on what workers, supervisors and their families are experiencing.

The toolkit will also include information packs, checklists and access to recordings of the summit. The BCMSA has also created an online discussion forum so the conversation about mental health and COVID-19 can continue.

“We just want to be able to support workers and employers to ensure that this is an item they are considering,” said Roberts. “And it’s not just about the worker. If these tools help a partner or a family member, that’s the ultimate goal – to have mental health help that people can access. The worker might not be the one with an illness, but it is crucial to help support their family.”

When Roberts reached out to various industry sectors to be involved in the project, one of the first to jump on board was the BCCSA.

“Construction people don’t generally want to talk about their feelings or mental health, but this has really been brought to our attention by industry,” said Mike McKenna, BCCSA executive director. “It’s not something we have manufactured or pushed to make a salient topic. The industry has come to us.”

McKenna explained he is hearing from many that workers are happy to be an essential service and being able to have money coming in, but pressure the pandemic puts on them at home can be a lot.

McKenna and his team worked with Roberts to make sure the program is applicable to the construction environment and uses direct, problem-solving language that those who spend their days on jobsites are used to.

McKenna said he is excited to see the final panel discussion which will feature Darin Hughes, president of Scott Construction, who will share his perspective from the construction industry with leaders from other sectors.

“I think that it’s important for workers to know that those that pay them are invested in this as well,” said McKenna.

Registration for the summit series is currently open. Details are as follows:

Sept. 10 – The first session will focus on identifying psychological impacts and needs due to COVID-19 as well as layout tools to identify mental health concerns. It will be hosted by occupational health consultant Diana Vissers.

Sept. 17 – The second session will have expert Phil Eastwood teach skills for communicating effectively with people experiencing psychological distress.

Oct. 1 – The third session will have addictions counsellor Mike Mathers lead a discussion on substance use and its impacts during COVID-19. According to recent research shows, British Columbians are using up to 40 per cent more alcohol and opioid deaths are at their highest rate ever.

Oct. 15 – The fourth session will have Carmen Bellows, a psychologist and director of mental health solutions at Sun Life Financial, talk about support for managers and leaders in response to their team’s psychological needs during the pandemic.

Oct. 29 – The fifth and final session will be the panel of industry leaders.

For more information click here. (https://www.bcmsa.ca/psychological-support-toolkit-for-workers-and-employers/)