Addressing Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Construction Industry

In this session we will discuss the intersection of mental illness and substance abuse (addiction) within our ranks. The construction trade has one of the highest rates of substance abuse recorded and has historically done a sub-par job of addressing these issues in an informed way.

We have learned a great deal about how to prevent and treat substance abuse and mental illness over the years however getting that information into the hands of those who need it has proven challenging. Over the past five years the SMART MAP program has been bringing this knowledge to our members and has recently expanded into peer training in order to better prepare peers to assist their fellows.

In this session an overview of these issues within the trades will be provided however more time and emphasis will be spent on solutions. Mental illness and substance abuse are taking a heavy toll on our industry; the intent of this session is to better equip you to lessen those impacts.

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Chris Carlough, SMART

A proud member of SMART for almost 35 years and Director of Education since 2007, Chris works hard for members, representatives and contractors in the unionized construction and transportation industries. The SMART Department of Education team strives continuously to improve all educational programs for its members and their representatives, and Chris has made it a further mission to develop a network of support for members and their families facing substance abuse, mental health issues and suicide. Drawing upon personal experience with addiction and recovery, he has organized peer support training across North America through SMART MAP training initiatives. Chris is extremely proud of his union’s commitment to developing a network of empathetic union members who offer guidance and support for those going through mental health challenges. He is passionate in his belief that a culture of caring brings a positive difference to the quality of life for everyone in the labor movement.

Ben Cort, Author/Consultant

Ben’s passion for recovery, prevention and harm reduction comes from his own struggle with substance abuse. Sober since 1996, Ben has been a part of the recovery movement in almost every way imaginable; from a recipient to a provider to a spokesperson, Cort has a deep understanding of the issues and a personal motivation to see the harmful effects of drug and alcohol abuse minimized.

From non-profits to hospitals to private programs Ben has been a leader inside of many forms of addiction treatment and prevention. For the last three years Ben has been a consultant to various treatment programs, state governments, professional and collegiate athletics and labor.

Ben is a Jr. Fellow at the University of Florida inside of their drug policy institute, a board member for NALGAP (National Association of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender treatment providers and their allies), a Board member at SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) and faculty at numerous institutes. He is a published author (Weed Inc, HCI 2017) and his TED talk “Surprising Truths about Legalizing Cannabis” has been viewed over 2 million times.