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March 3-7, 2026

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Breaking the Stigma: PTSD in Construction



If you are in a mental health crisis, call or text 988 to speak to a crisis counselor now. You can also text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line and speak to a live, trained crisis counselor. Learn more about the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 988.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an often-misunderstood condition that is complex and varies in symptoms for different people in situations. It’s most often associated with military servicemembers and veterans, and veterans made up 6.5% of construction industry workers in 2022.

However, an important fact to remember is that anyone can have PTSD, but it isn’t always permanent.


“In the immediate aftermath of such an event, it is very medically predictable for people to experience emotional, physical, cognitive and behavioral reactions that are part of the flight, fight, freeze response to danger,” says Bob VandePol, LMSW. “Those reactions are normal and generally dissipate with good self-care and support.”

PTSD occurs when a person reacts as if they are in danger when they are actually safe. A diagnosis is given when those reactions last 30 days or more and there are a few clusters of symptoms people can experience:

  • Re-experiencing the event: This can occur through flashbacks, recurring memories or nightmares and can present with physical symptoms.
  • Avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event: Someone quitting their job, avoiding certain places, activities, thoughts or feelings, or maybe self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.
  • Arousal and reactivity to stressors in very heightened ways: Hypervigilance like this can present by someone being tense, defensive or easily startled, and having difficulty falling asleep.
  • A change in thinking and mood: Shame, survival guilt and no longer enjoying activities once enjoyed.

Bob founded VandePol Crisis Response Services LLC for crisis leadership, crisis response consulting, organizational resilience and more. He has personally consulted and supported construction teams responding to workplace fatalities. In the past, Bob has worked as a clinical therapist and was the executive director of the employee assistance program at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. He has been quoted in articles by Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal among others and has consulted and spoken before the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Senate.

Bob managed CNN’s command center in New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He has responded and worked to help in other tragedies, like the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Sandy Hook shootings and similar events. So, it’s safe to say Bob knows how PTSD can affect people.

Anyone and everyone can experience traumatic events, and PTSD is very treatable.

Bob VandePol, LMSW

Founder, VandePol Crisis Response Services LLC


Looking at the symptoms, it becomes easy to see how PTSD works in construction. Construction workers are exposed to injuries, witnessing injuries, accidents or death of coworkers in high-risk environments. Even though safety measures are of the highest importance in construction, sometimes accidents still happen. This is why it’s crucial for mental health to be considered in those safety considerations, too.

This means it’s crucial that workers have access to employee assistance programs (EAPs) and know how to use them effectively.

“EAPs provide prompt access to clinical care while those without an EAP may have to wait for months for an initial appointment,” Bob says.

While therapy is often suggested to treat mental health concerns, those with PTSD may need a different kind of help. There are clinicians who are credentialed in trauma treatment that not all therapists will specialize in. EAPs can help workers find those clinicians who will best help their needs.


Like many others, Bob says, “Educate, educate, educate,” when it comes to fighting the mental health stigma. The more people know about different mental health conditions, the more people understand the experience if it’s not something they have personally dealt with. The stigma can be eradicated, but that comes with a lot of work.

It’s work that leadership can initiate simply by being open and honest: “It is also impactfully compelling when leaders and peers in the workplace are willing to share their own mental health challenges and successes,” Bob says.

“Anyone and everyone can experience traumatic events,” Bob says, “and PTSD is very treatable.”

Content Notes: The CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365 newsletter has featured content about mental health over past few months, and will continue to do so throughout the year. While these topics can be challenging, we want to remind you about one underlying feature: hope.

We will tackle topics related to suicide, PTSD and other mental health conditions that are prevalent in the construction industry. There are resources to help – whether you need help yourself or want to help a friend. Where there is help, there is hope.

One way to attack the mental health stigma is by telling your story. Please contact us if you would like to share your journey with fellow CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365 readers.

Another way to help is to share this story on your social media or with someone who may benefit from hearing about mental wellness in the construction industry.


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