Construction company's mental health focus addresses industry concern

The Boldt Co. is focused on going beyond physical safety at its construction sites, honing in on mental wellbeing.

Combined with the general struggles felt during the COVID-19 pandemic, Boldt decided it was time to become proactive. The company said mental health needs to be an industry-wide conversation.

"It often has high pressures with challenges with schedules and budget," said John Huggett, Boldt's vice president and general manager. "Sometimes working away from home, the male-dominated nature of our industry – all these sometimes help causes that contribute to mental health issues and suicide."

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When the stress of construction work can tear people down, Boldt is building a support system.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show men in construction have some of the highest suicide rates in the country compared to other professions – four times higher than the general population.

The Boldt Co.

Huggett said the company's suicide prevention program, started in 2021, provides potentially life-saving tools.

"We’re trying to raise the comfort level to be able to have these conversations," he said. "It’s OK to ask for help."

Stickers with that message are worn by employees who have training from the QPR Institute to become "gatekeepers." Melissa Moerman is one of 18 Milwaukee-area Boldt gatekeepers.

The Boldt Co. mental health program

"It just helps you to understand what questions to ask, to not be afraid to try and reach out to people," Moerman said.

Gatekeepers are not therapists, but can listen and connect people with mental health and suicide prevention resources. That includes one employee who was able to bring the support home.

"They said, ‘I’m so thankful to have this program, because I used this last month on my daughter,’" said Moerman.

The Boldt Co.

"It is for all mental health. I have had many conversations since we started to create this culture of openness and listening, of having those more candid conversations," Huggett said.

Boldt employees say it is one of the most important foundations they can build.

"It definitely makes me teary when I think about the hopelessness some people have, and knowing that just this little bit can make a difference in one person’s life," said Moerman.

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If you or someone you know could use some help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-272-8255 or you can use the National Text Crisis Line by texting 'talk' to 741-741.

Additional resources are available through Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.