Suicide prevention in the construction industry is becoming a topic of conversation, and rightly so. According to a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the construction and extraction industries had the second highest rate of suicide with 53.3 suicides per 100,000 people.
According to the CDC report, occupations with higher suicide rates might be at risk for a number of reasons including:
- Job related isolation and demands
- Stressful work environments
- Work-home imbalance
- Socioeconomic inequities such as lower income, lower education level and lack of access to health services
The report looks at construction workers specifically and indicates they may be at a higher risk because of "financial and interpersonal concerns related to lack of steady employment and fragmented community or isolation."
Recently, a few new resources have become available to address suicide prevention in the construction industry. Construction Working Minds is a website that was established to increase industry awareness and provide valuable resources for suicide prevention in the construction workplace. Working Minds is a program of the Carson J Spencer Foundation and the Working Minds Training is a national Best Practice for Suicide Prevention.
The Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) has also started the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. This alliance's goal is to provide and disseminate information and resources for suicide prevention and mental health promotion in construction. The alliance wants to create awareness of the problem and help the construction industry cultivate a culture of caring.
Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, the Association of Equipment Management Professionals, the Construction Management Association of America and the National Asphalt Pavement Association are just some of the alliance members dedicated to this mission.
In addition to these construction industry specific resources there are many other general suicide prevention resources contractors can consult for help on improving suicide awareness and prevention in their companies.
Preventative steps construction business owners can take
Education and awareness are the first critical steps to suicide prevention in the construction industry. Is your company already focused on a strong safety culture with a goal of zero workplace fatalities? Zero workplace fatalities should encompass not only jobsite accidents but suicide prevention as well.
Construction business owners can play a major part in helping to decrease the suicide risk in their company and ultimately the construction industry. Construction Working Minds suggests employers:
- Implement organization changes to promote the mental and emotional health of employees
- Ensure mental health services are included as a benefit in health plans
- Train employees and supervisors to recognize coworkers in distress and respond appropriately
- Ensure counselors in an employee assistance program are well equipped to assess and manage suicide risk
- Ensure mental health services include grief counseling
- Evaluate effectiveness of workplace wellness programs
The CDC offers additional recommendations including:
- Enhancing connectedness to family and friends
- Encouraging help-seeking for people exhibiting signs of distress or suicidality
- Supporting efforts to reduce stigma associated with help seeking and mental illness
- Creating/offering employee assistance programs, workplace wellness programs and training for all employees to aid in recognition of suicide warning signs
- Make sure all employees are aware of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255)
Taking it a step further, Construction Working Minds also provides a resource, A Construction Industry Blueprint: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace.
Construction companies don't have to go it alone when it comes to suicide prevention. Resources like Construction Working Minds provide keynote presentations and training workshops to help companies create a shift in culture, improve skills and improve mental health education. In addition, the Construction Working Minds website has a Toolbox page dedicated to providing more resources to construction companies including, posters, toolbox talks, a workplace quiz and a workplace checklist.
The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention also offers a variety of resources including informative and actionable articles relating to suicide prevention and events such as the CFMA suicide prevention summits, webinars convention sessions and more.
One of the most important steps in construction industry suicide prevention is to talk about it instead of ignoring it. Knowing there is a culture of open discussion rather than a stigma attached to suicide and suicide prevention could go a long way in helping at risk employees. And knowing how much you care about your employee's lives and health is a great way to boost employee morale and satisfaction with their job.
So start the conversation today and get your company and employees on board to help prevent suicide not only in your company but among the industry as a whole. We all want a healthy, safe working environment, and that includes mental health as well.
Have you taken any steps to address suicide prevention in your construction company?
Share your thoughts, strategies and resources in the comments section below and help start and keep the conversation about suicide prevention going.