Over 41,000 suicides occur each year, and according to a recent report on ConstructionDive.com, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found the construction has the second-highest suicide rate amongst all occupations.
In its report, using 2012 data from 17 states (12,312 total suicides), the CDC says construction workers might be more susceptible to suicide because of the unstable nature of employment, which causes financial and relationship problems as well as isolation.
Mental health experts also say the "tough guy" culture of construction might prevent workers from seeking help if they experience depression or thoughts of suicide.
Another possible factor in the high suicide rates is increased drug use among construction employees. A report from insurance provider CNA last year found that construction workers were at a higher risk of abusing prescription medication and using illegal drugs.
In response to these high rates, the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, in cooperation with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP) and RK Mechanical in Denver, published a construction industry suicide prevention guidebook, A Construction Industry Blueprint: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace, to help executives in the business identify risk factors.
The guidebook explains how contractors can make mental health a priority through open discussion of topics considered sensitive to construction workers. Starting a conversation about mental health isn’t easy, so here are some ideas to help incorporate it into your business:
Shift Workplace Cultural Perspective: Make mental health and suicide prevention health and safety priorities. Leadership must model this, clearly communicate benefits and answer questions. Regularly promote mental health practices and a range of resources – e.g., new employee orientation, benefits renewal, newsletters, toolbox talks.
Develop Life Skills: Offer training in conflict resolution, stress management, communication skills, financial planning, goal setting, parenting or other skills-based programs for employees.
Improve Mental Health & Addiction Knowledge: Deliver regular toolbox talks and awareness communication on mental health topics and how to improve wellness. Consistently link mental health with wellness and safety programs.
Promote Social Networks: Create a healthy community and foster genuine workplace support.
World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. Start the conversation now with your team and make mental health a priority in your company’s culture. You could save a life.
To download the guidebook, visit NAASP at actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org.