Mental Health and Manufacturing

In the manufacturing sector, employees’ physical health is a top concern. In an industrial setting, employees are susceptible to accidents due to moving parts on machinery, equipment failures and other hazards. For these reasons, physical health and safety are taken very seriously. Safety protocols are mandatory, and safety audits are regularly performed to help ensure employees go home safe and healthy after each shift.

However, there is another hidden hazard that also harms manufacturing employees, and that’s the risk to their mental health. Mental health, often overlooked in the workplace until recent years, is a significant factor when it comes to an employee’s wellbeing as well as their productivity levels.

One study showed that mental health problems are 36 percent more prevalent in manufacturing employees than the national average. Occupational stress and demanding jobs can often lead to burnout and other mental health struggles, which create issues not just on an individual level but for their workplace as well.

Manufacturing employees face specific mental health risk factors. In a male-dominated workspace, employees with mental health issues are less likely to speak up due to the fear of stigma. Some manufacturing jobs are hazardous, high-pressure environments by virtue of the work done there, and that pressure can exacerbate already-existing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Additionally, employment insecurity and low wages can lead to mental health problems in employees. These problems can often lead to additional issues for those suffering from them, such as increased absenteeism, substance abuse issues and even suicide.

Mental health concerns have worsened in the U.S. since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which applies directly to essential employees, many of whom work in manufacturing. According to a survey conducted by the CDC, 40 percent of respondents reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse, 54 percent of self-reported essential workers expressed mental or behavioral health symptoms, and 21 percent reported that they considered suicide in the last year.

Like physical health and safety, workers’ mental health and safety must be a priority for employers. Assisting with healthcare so that employees can receive medication and counseling is a good first step, but destigmatizing mental health discussions in the workplace also helps prevent major issues from occurring. It is also important for employees to have trusted people to speak with about their struggles without judgment who can prevent their issues from getting worse and provide comfort.

Spiritual wellness and strength of faith help many people cope with the stresses of life, including mental illness. As a faith-based, Christian company, Millwood places an emphasis on supporting our team members’ relationships with God, for those that choose to pursue it. For that reason, team members have access to a dedicated chaplain at each of our locations across the country. Millwood chaplains provide spiritual guidance and access to resources for any issues they aren’t directly able to help with. Having a connection with a spiritual leader is one way workers may be able to cope with mental health struggles.

Manufacturing employers owe it to their employees to provide mental health resources in light of the specific risk factors these employees face. The ability to be open about mental health and have trusted personnel that workers can go to for help will lead to a decrease in depression, anxiety and substance abuse in manufacturing workers. Employers that provide that support will see employees who are more productive, happier and healthier.

Author: Jessica Chizmar