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LRP mental health support gains traction among constructors

Angela Gismondi
LRP mental health support gains traction among constructors

“Today is May 2, the day I was supposed to take a trip to the Amazon, a trip I planned to be one way with something happening to me to end my suffering. But this recovery program has begun to change my life…It helps us make better choices with our lives.” — Anonymous

Paul Radkowski, CEO and clinical director of the Life Recovery Program (LRP), shared this statement made by an anonymous individual in the construction trades within the first few months of engaging in the online, self-directed, video-based program.

The LRP provides trauma-informed psycho-education and support to people with addiction and mental health issues, as well as their friends and family, and is gaining traction in the construction industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, construction has the second highest rate of suicide. The Contractor Safety Assessment Program reveals the sector has the second highest substance use and the highest fataility rate due to substance abuse.


The program is designed to fill the mental health and addiction gaps,

— Paul Radkowski

Life Recovery Program


As such, the LRP has been rolled out to various local construction associations in the past few months.

“It provides immediate, accessible and anonymous treatment to individuals and family members struggling with addiction and mental health issues,” said Radkowski, who used to work as a psychotherapist in the Northwest Territories where traditional support for mental health and addiction issues was difficult to access.

“A majority of people don’t seek help, often citing issues with access to treatment, financial reasons or because they are afraid of the stigma associated with in-person treatment and fear what their friends, family and employer might think. The program is designed to fill the mental health and addiction gaps that keep people waiting for services and does not aim to replace traditional treatment options.”

According to Radkowski, a few construction associations, such as the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, the Grand Valley Construction Association and the Calgary Construction Association,  have adopted the program for their members and staff. While many have access to an employee assistance program (EAP), the average usage is five per cent, with 60 per cent of those users being female.

“Construction is still pretty much a male populated industry, which means a lot of people and profits are falling through the cracks,” explained Radkowski, adding on average EAPs meet workers for three sessions, which is good for immediate concerns.

“If we’re dealing with more complex or chronic issues that becomes a challenge with some of the existing models.”

The LRP provides a first step for people with mild to moderate substance abuse, behavioural or process addictions, self-cutting, eating disorders, gambling, toxic relationships, anger, chronic stress, trauma and impulse control issues. It can be used as support for someone waiting for treatment, those who want anonymity or those who are unable or not ready to have face-to-face treatment, explained Radkowski.

“We got tired of seeing people bleed and die in the gaps. We decided to take our work front line and put it online,” he said.
“The idea was these are 24/7 issues and the program is like having your own personal wellness coach 24/7. It gets through the barriers of stigma and access and it’s cost effective.”

The program can also be used to prevent relapse or as support for someone coming out of treatment. These issues are prevalent in the construction industry, he said.

“When you’ve got a lot of stigma and a lot of substance abuse, that’s a double whammy. I can see why people are more led to do themselves in versus actually reaching out for help,” said Radkowski, adding people with mental health and addiction issues can wait anywhere from six to 23 years before accessing services.

“Throughout the program we are encouraging folks to seek additional support especially if the symptoms are persistent or increasing.”

In addition to costing lives, mental health and addiction cost profits and jobs, Radkowski noted, with absenteeism playing a large role. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Canadian companies lose 14 per cent of net annual profits to mental health and addiction.

The LRP consists of an on-demand video coaching platform with online resources including self-directed video modules, a continuous email support program, downloads, tools and techniques, e-books and a clinician-moderated interactive peer support forum where participants can access immediate support and resources.

“The forum helps normalize what’s going on,” explained Radkowski. “It also allows participants to interact anonymously with others in the program. It’s a way for people to find support and resources for the issues they’re facing.

“Our research shows that 80 per cent of participants experienced a significant reduction in symptoms and substantial improvement in coping.”

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