September is Suicide Prevention Month, which is becoming more frequently talked about as the years go by. One matter that should be discussed more, however, is the number of suicides in construction. According to the CDC, construction has one of the highest suicide rates out of all industries. In addition, the number of suicides in construction are five times higher than all fatalities occurring in the industry.
Although experts are still researching why this line of work is seeing high numbers, the work environment is believed to be part of the cause. Labor shortages and incentives to work overtime led to long days in harsh conditions. The job sites can be dangerous, and relocation may be needed once a project is finished.
Former Construction Employees Speak Out
Two former employees in construction openly shared their insight as to why this industry is seeing the largest number of suicides. The first person previously worked in military construction, while the second worked in commercial construction. Both former employees shall remain anonymous.
The first former employee stated, “Those working in construction are always moving and leaving their families. When they are away from home, their significant other will set schedules and get into a routine, learning to be independent. When the employee finally comes home from work, everything feels different, and they are left feeling unneeded.”
Anonymous is looking forward, however. They noted the military has been increasing their suicide prevention programs and encourages everyone to express their feelings. “Sometimes, you don’t even want advice. You want to just talk to someone and have them listen to you. Promoting the ability to discuss your thoughts out loud can greatly help someone.”
The second former employee had a similar outlook. Anonymous stated, “In my years of experience working in construction, I have found that it can be tough for some. The working hours are long, and it is physically demanding. The long hours can create friction with your significant other and kids. You will miss birthdays, meet the teacher days, and other important events. Not to mention that you are constantly surrounded with dangerous equipment, chemicals, etc. It is the culture, it is the work, it is the hours. If your body is beat down, your brain can be too.”
How Can Employers Prevent Suicides in Construction?
It is crucial for peers and/or direct supervisors to check in with their employees on a weekly basis at minimum. Often, people feel the need to suppress their feelings and focus on work. By encouraging your supervisors to check in with your employees, you are opening the floor for a conversation.
By encouraging peers to check in with one another, a sense of community is built in the work environment. Even if supervisors simply convey the message to talk to someone, lives will be saved.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers online courses to learn about suicide prevention awareness. The leadership team at each business should be trained on suicide prevention and have the talk with their team. Although it may initially be an uncomfortable conversation at first, studies show that suicide prevention strategies work.
A worldwide study was conducted on individuals of all ages, broken into groups. The groups were those under 24 years old, 25-44, 45-64, and above 65 years old. Although each age group saw different numbers, the decrease in suicides after prevention methods were put in place is evident. It is important for employers to begin implementing strategies in their businesses immediately.
If you are able to add resources to your budget, Talkspace is an affordable option with plans for employers. Investing in this service will give your employees a licensed professional to speak with and can assist with addressing negative thoughts.
Lastly, there are ample resources for the construction industry to get help. Employers should communicate at least one of these resources with their employees.
Resources to Prevent Suicides
On July 16, 2022, a national dialing code was implemented in the United States. Dialing 988 now connects those in need to the suicide and crisis lifeline. This number also specializes in crises for veterans and those who are hard of hearing or deaf.
If you are more comfortable sending a text rather than making a call, this line also supports texting. For the general suicide and crisis lifeline, you can text 988. Their website also offers a chat option, as well as a walk-through on what to expect during your discussion with a counselor.
If you are a veteran, you can call 988 or text 383255. If you are a TTY user, you can either use your preferred relay service or dial 711 and then 988.
If you are looking for a place to get started with treatment, the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention has a mental health screening on their website that only takes a few minutes to complete. Based on your results, information will be provided on recommended actions or next steps to take.