Initiative tackles mental health in finishing trades, construction industry: ‘We’ve saved lives’ – WCCO

LITTLE CANADA, Minnesota (WCCO) – A mental health initiative is making a difference for students and workers in the finishing trades industry.

In 2017, the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest (FTIUM) launched the Helping Hand initiative. The goal is to normalize the conversation about mental health and create an environment where people feel comfortable asking for help.

READ MORE: New Programs Aim to Combat Stress and Depression Facing the AAPI Community

“Anyone who works in this building knows how to respond to a crisis,” said FTIUM Director of Academic Education John Burcaw. “The most important thing is that we have to live the words we speak. We made the decision to do it here. “

The Helping Hand initiative focuses on stigma, changing the words used to discuss mental health and ending discrimination against people with mental health conditions and addictions.

All staff at the College of Learning and their District Council have completed Mental Health First Aid and a course called “Changing the Culture of Construction”. Both courses will be offered to students and union members starting this fall.

Bob Swanson is an instructor for the “Changing the Culture of Construction” course.

“The industry is a tough industry,” Swanson said. “We cannot change certain dynamics. It’s always a stressful industry, lots of schedules, lots of work on the road, all of those things. But we can change the way we care for people.

Swanson retired as a painting contractor. He is an advocate for suicide prevention and a frequent speaker for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Life changed forever for his family on March 13, 2009.

“Our eldest son, Michael, committed suicide,” Swanson said of her 33-year-old son. “People who knew him loved him. He was that magnet in the room. The real tragedy is that he didn’t feel that.

Swanson shared her struggles with the loss.

“I carried a lot of guilt. I was raised as a man. You provide and protect your family. It was instilled in me by my father… and here I couldn’t protect my son. I felt a lot of guilt, a lot of shame,” Swanson said. “Luckily I was in a support group, a male support group for several years to help me through this. Then I just said, ‘I can’t be mad all my life. life… what do we do about it?’ “

Swanson has spoken approximately 140 times over the past half-decade, telling his story to NAMI groups, task forces, building groups and others across the country. He continues to learn about people, illnesses and substance use.

“I just don’t want anyone else going through what we went through,” Swanson said. “I became, I think more susceptible to, these are just diseases. Nobody’s fault. No one wants them and they are all treatable.

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that men working in construction had one of the highest suicide rates in the nation compared to other industries. This is about four times higher than the general population.

READ MORE: Minnesota Legislature approves $93 million for mental health in final hours of session

Risk factors include demanding schedules, the uncertainty of seasonal work, and workplace accidents sometimes treated with opioids.

“It’s a very demanding job. It’s a lot of pressure in the work that we do, deadlines, time constraints, dollars to earn,” Burcaw said. “Then you have the dangers we are exposed to… part of construction is working in remote areas, sometimes working alone. Women in the trades, for example, may feel isolated as a result, not always knowing if you fit in, for example.

When it comes to suicide in Minnesota, the numbers are staggering.

In 2019, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that 830 people died from intentional self-harm – the highest number ever recorded in the state to date. Suicides disproportionately affected men, Native Americans, and people between the ages of 45 and 64. Men were three to five times more likely to commit suicide than women.

This is a trend that FTIUM is working to change. Hundreds of students have studied at the College of Apprenticeship, the trade school of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82. The District Council represents 3,200 members and works with approximately 90 employers.

“We know we have saved lives. We know we saved lives as recently as last month simply through courage, people having the courage to come forward, ask for help and then get the help they need,” Burcaw said. about college learning.

Brandon Baier is one of 16 students completing the 18-week PSEO program at the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest. After living through four and a half years of bullying and suicide attempts, the teenager changed schools and a counselor urged him to apply for the PSEO program.

“It’s really nice to be able to be myself around people and they won’t judge me for who I am or what I do,” Baier said. “We are like a united family here… we all love each other and we all love each other.”

Baier shared how the training his instructors received through the Helping Hand initiative helped him succeed in the program.

“He senses if I’m not well or if something is wrong and he texts me immediately,” Baier said of an instructor. “‘Are you doing OK?’ It’s just nice to have that support even when I don’t ask for it. They’re going to ask me.

The future commercial painter is considering several job options. He will graduate from Paladin Career & Technical High School in June.

After hearing Baier’s story, Swanson shared this post.

“Hearing Brandon’s story, it gave me goosebumps,” Swanson said. “Feeling proud of him and proud that our industry is changing because he felt safe.”

NO MORE NEWS: With Anti-Asian Hatred on the Rise, School Curriculum Focuses on Youth Mental Health AAPI

For more information on the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest, the Helping Hand initiative, or careers in finishing trades, click here.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button