Retired IUPAT contractor discusses mental health in construction

Retired International Union of Painters and Allied Trades signatory contractor Bob Swanson returned to America’s Work Force Union Podcast on Sept. 9 to highlight mental health in the construction industry.

Swanson lost his son to mental illness and suicide. It has turned him into an advocate for those in the industry seeking help with issues in their lives.

Mental health in construction

Swanson began by laying out the macho man stereotype of construction workers. He said in the past and even currently, people are told to leave their problems at the door, leading people to bottle up problems instead of getting the help they need.

He then moved into the cause of these problems. Of course, drugs and alcohol can play a large part in a tradesman or tradeswoman’s mental state. 

Swanson noted that substance abuse can be a product of the job. In an industry as physical as construction, many tradespeople feel pressured to return to work prematurely. This can lead some to manage pain with alcohol, street drugs or by abusing prescriptions.

Attention to mental health

Swanson said he is glad to see the problems faced by tradesmen and tradeswomen being talked about more than they used to. He said it is important to instill it into the younger generations that it is okay to talk about mental health and other issues.

He added that he has seen the IUPAT make a concerted effort through their Helping Hand program to improve the discussions around mental health. Additionally, he said it is good that this issue is finally being addressed during apprenticeships and in training centers.


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