According to the SafeBuild Alliance, 43.8 million adults experience life events that cause distress every year, and nearly one in 25 adults in America live with a serious mental illness.
However, construction workers are at a higher risk—and too often, those affected choose to take their own lives. The Center for Disease Control says that the construction industry has the second highest rate of suicide in the U.S. at 53.3 deaths per 100,000 workers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, those numbers likely went up, as they did for suicide in general.
These are staggering numbers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do as an industry to support our colleagues. As always, we are working to spread awareness and create dialogue around suicide and suicide prevention.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Construction Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 5-9. Both events provide a way to raise awareness—and a way to provide support. Just imagine how much relief we could bring with a little more awareness.
Using Available Resources
The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great source of information and resources about suicide. There is a resource guide for those experiencing a mental health emergency and support groups for people with mental health conditions or for people impacted by family or friends’ mental health conditions.
So, what can we do that NAMI hasn’t already done? For one, we can talk openly about suicide as something that has impacted many, many people. According to NAMI, suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 10-34 in the U.S. That means most people have been impacted by it.
In fact, this prevalence of suicide and suicidal thoughts was the impetus for creating Construction Suicide Prevention Week two years ago. As a result of this week, there has been increased attention on suicide within the construction industry.
What Else We Can Do
For other resources, consider OSHA’s recently updated suicide prevention poster (click here to download) that companies can customize with their logo for display in the workplace. The poster lists five things to know about suicide prevention.
- The first step is awareness. Mental health and suicide can be difficult to talk about, especially at work and with colleagues, but our actions can make a difference. When we work closely with others, we can often sense when something is wrong.
- Second, we can be more aware of the symptoms. While there is no one cause for suicide, changes in behavior, mood or even what a person says but signal that someone is at risk. If we take these signs seriously, we can create more dialogue at least and maybe even save lives.
- Third, we can ask questions. We can consider the well-being of a coworker, talk with them privately and listen without judgment. We can encourage them to seek additional help and support, especially through your company’s human resources department, employee assistance program or a mental health professional.
- Fourth, if we feel a coworker is in immediate danger, we can stay with them until we can get additional help. We can also contact emergency services of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
- Last, take advantage of the suicide prevention resources available. ABC National shares Suicide Prevention Month materials including posters, a social media toolkit, and Total Human Health Toolbox Talks (exclusive to ABC members). The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also shares information on suicide risk factors, warning signs and how you can help prevent suicide.
Join ABC Maine
Membership with ABC Maine offers numerous benefits—including actionable resources on employee health and safety. We invite you to learn more about ABC Maine, here. To join, contact Membership Director Tami Staples at 207-620-6561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.