English | Español

Boilermakers embrace mental health awareness to support members

MOST Programs offers 988 chips, posters and hardhat stickers to local lodges address the mental health needs of members.

In a significant move towards prioritizing holistic health, MOST Trustees voted to adopt a mental health awareness program for the Construction Sector at the National Tripartite Alliance last August. Since then, suicide prevention 988 chips, QR-code linked hardhat stickers, a QR-code linked pocket resource and posters with mental health resources for local lodges are the first initiatives of the new program.

MOST Programs Administrator Mark Garrett said business managers received calls from members about mental health issues that were affecting members’ well-being, which prompted the trustees to act. He said traditionally, the culture among workers was to “rub some dirt on it and get back to work,” a sentiment discouraging healthy balance and encouraging workers to dismiss what troubles them.

Garrett emphasized that the primary goal in creating a mental health awareness program is not to train lodge leaders to be counselors but to provide accessible resources they can share with members. In addition to resource-filled posters, 988 chips and hardhat stickers, a pocket-size version of the poster is the next resource in the works.

“The impact on helping people far outweighs the program's cost, which is minimal,” Garrett said, highlighting the union’s commitment to making a difference in members’ lives. “If we help save even one person’s life, this is worth it.”

Garrett pointed out specific challenges construction workers face, including long hours, irregular schedules and the stress of being away from families. The stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic intensified the need for mental health resources. Garrett also stressed the importance of self-care and how members must prioritize their own well-being, not only for themselves but for their families and their union brothers and sisters.

For over 12 years, IR Luke Voigt worked as business manager for L-647 (Ramsey, Minnesota) and saw firsthand the struggles members faced.

Voigt mentioned the old mentality of “buck up and take it,” highlighting the importance of evolving attitudes. He said he’s seen a positive shift in younger generations being more open to discussing mental health issues. And when members are willing to seek help, it’s imperative to have resources to offer. He said the program aims to train people to recognize potential issues and point them in the direction needed to get help.

“We’re not mental health experts but we can have the tools to recognize when someone needs a hand,” Voigt said.

Drawing a parallel with safety protocols, Voigt compared recognizing mental health struggles to safety practices: Just as safety measures save lives, so can identifying and addressing mental health issues.

“As an organization, it is something we must be open to. It’s as important as physical help. It’s debilitating and a safety issue,” Voigt said.

Struggling and not sure where to turn? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a United States government agency addressing substance use disorder and mental health challenges facing millions of Americans. Find resources and information at www.samhsa.org.

Know someone battling suicidal thoughts? Call or text the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for immediate help. Find additional resources at https://988lifeline.org.

For substance use disorder help, call the Boilermakers National Health and Welfare Fund’s Substance Abuse Crisis Line at 877-244-3572.