Many who work in construction know the culture surrounding much of the work prevents conversations about mental health. Notably, there is a culture of stoicism – emphasis on self-reliance and toughness – a culture workers in the building industry share with players in the National Football League.
Philadelphia Eagles Pro-Bowl offensive lineman Lane Johnson recently sat down for an interview with Jay Glazer that aired on Fox's Sunday pregame show to discuss the mental health challenges that led him to miss three games in October.
Speaking of his battle with depression and anxiety, Johnson told Glazer that "trying to describe that to people who have no clue what it's like is very difficult. You lose touch of your sense of self. You lose touch of what’s really going on around you. And what we really tend to do is lock up, not want to say anything."
Johnson, who is in his ninth season with the Eagles, said that he was reluctant to say anything because he was ashamed. Referring to football as a gladiator-type sport, Johnson said it was often felt across the league but not talked about. The key, he realized, was to talk about it, not withstanding the fear of judgment.
Misinformation and stereotypes have long contributed to inaction by perpetuating stigma. Stigma thrives on myths and fear, creates silence and deepens the sense that what we are not talking about should be hidden. Because of stigma many construction companies have yet to incorporate mental health, substance abuse, addiction recovery, and suicide prevention into their safety, health, and wellness culture and programs.
Glazer asked Johnson what advice he would have for those watching at home: "I'd say find your closest friend or a family member. Tell a loved one. And if it's to a degree of seriousness, there's always help around the corner," he said. "That's the thing. It's not far. It's never out of reach. And whenever you do this, you realize that you have a lot more in common with everybody else around you than you think."
Johnson noted, "I'm glad I'm sitting here talking about it and finally being open about it."
Raising awareness by encouraging open and honest conversations about mental health is a first step in improving overall worker safety and health. As part of its Member Mental Health and Wellness Initiative, NAHB has made available an online screening tool for members to take an anonymous self-assessment and, depending on the outcome, guides them to a customized set of resources that can connect them with appropriate services to address mental health and/or addiction issues.
NAHB has also made available the JustFive NAHB portal, where members can learn more about substance abuse disorder in five-minute modules. Users can learn more about their risks and those around them. For other resources provided as a part of the initiative, please visit the Member Mental Health and Wellbeing page on nahb.org.
The full interview is posted on the Fox Sports website.