A recent study claims that workers in manufacturing are 36% more likely to have mental health issues than Americans in general. Mental health and manufacturing have some kind of connection. Is manufacturing rough on mental health? Or is there some other explanation?
More men work in manufacturing. Men are not more likely than women to have mental health issues, but they are less likely to seek help. Get a lot of men together and you can end up with a culture in which admitting to weakness — including depression or anxiety — seems impossible.
Men who do talk about mental health issues may not get the support they need, either, Bro culture can lead to back slapping and walking it off rather than careful listening and emotional support.
Working at night turns out to have some health consequences. Night workers and workers who have rotating shifts are more likely to get heart disease and less likely to get enough sleep. It makes sense that these workers would face some mental health consequences, too.
Sure enough, a recent review of the literature found that anxiety and depression are more common among people who work at night. Substance abuse and even suicidal thoughts are also more common.
Manufacturing often requires punishing production quotas, high levels of noise pollution, and plain old hard work. Some manufacturing plants subject workers a fair amount of criticism and yelling, too. Few manufacturing workers are sitting comfortably in a pleasant room with indoor plants and picture windows.
The high levels of stress, combined with low levels of emotional support, can add up to emotional distress. A recent survey found that an increasing proportion of manufacturers are finding that mental health issues interfere with productivity and employee retention.
One big step manufacturers can take is to work on the stigma associated with mental health concerns. Make it okay to talk about feelings, including feelings of anxiety or depression. Workers will feel more able to ask for help if they’re confident that they won’t lose face — or their jobs.
Most manufacturers have mental health resources, whether that’s a counselor or social worker in HR or coverage for therapy in health insurance plans. Make sure that supervisors know about these resources so they can easily refer employees to the support they need. Better yet, share that information with the entire team so workers don’t have to take the bold step of asking for help without knowing what resources are available.
Mentally healthy workers are more productive than those whose minds are on their feelings of anxiety or depression. It’s worthwhile for manufacturers to take steps to keep their workers mentally healthy.