In last week’s blog post, we discussed resources for preventing construction suicide. National Suicide Prevention Month encourages the conversation, but this cause should be supported worldwide, year-round.
There is a stigma among construction workers that they must be “tough” and not show their emotions. This stereotype encourages those in the industry to bottle up their feelings. Although suppressing emotions may work for a short period of time, it will not work forever, which is why we are seeing a high number of construction workers in a mental health crisis.
This blog post will discuss three main strategies for breaking the stigma. The information in this blog post was provided by Construction Suicide Prevention Week.
Step 1: Know the Facts
One of the main reasons why employers and employees are apprehensive to talk about suicide prevention is the fear it will encourage a mental health crisis. It is a myth that talking about suicide increases the rates of it. It is actually proven that talking about suicide will encourage those to seek mental health treatment options.
It is crucial to implement suicide prevention strategies in your workplace. Even having the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number (988) visibly displayed around the workplace can help. Direct supervisors should periodically discuss the importance of seeking help with their employees and encourage peers to check in with one another.
Site supervisors and colleagues should be encouraged to seek help if they notice an employee display any warning signs. Some warning signs of suicide are:
- Acting distant
- Giving away important items
- Taking dangerous risks, such as driving extremely fast
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Eating or sleeping more or less
- Using drugs
- Drinking alcohol more frequently
- Displaying feelings of emotional pain
Although one may feel conflicted when reporting a concern, saying something can be the difference of life and death. It is always better safe than sorry when faced with this situation.
Step 2: Invest in Resources
Talking about prevention methods is an excellent starting point. However, it is important to also invest in resources to help your employees. Across the United States, $20 billion in revenue is lost annually due to low productivity from depression.
In addition, every one dollar a company spends in mental health sees a three-to-five-dollar return. The investment in counseling programs for your workplace may seem like a big expense, but you will profit from it in the long run.
One might assume that individuals can schedule counseling using their own resources, similar to how they schedule family physician visits. However, this is not always as simple as it may appear. Not all insurances fully cover counseling programs, as sessions range from $65 per hour to $250 or more. Covering the weekly cost of a co-pay (and possibly also the partial cost of a session) is not an option for everyone, depending on their financial situation.
By providing counseling support for your employees, you will see an increase in productivity and workplace morale.
Investing in fall protection has become common knowledge, as falls are among the leading causes of fatalities in construction. Just as you take preventative measures for workplace accidents, you should be taking preventative measures for mental health crises. If you think fall incident numbers are high, the chances of a fatality from a suicide is higher than that from a fall.
Investing in mental health is just as important as investing in physical health.
Step 3: Be Consistent
The only way to break a stigma is to normalize it. Talking about suicide prevention will be awkward at first, there is no doubt about it. However, if we continue delaying the conversation due to lack of comfort, there will not be any progress made.
It takes 21 days to break a habit. The more you mention suicide prevention, the more comfortable it will be to have these conversations. These discussions do not have to be lengthy; even if you simply let your employees know the importance of talking to someone, you are contributing to the solution.
Once we recognize that mental health is health, the stigma will be broken. It is not taboo to ask how someone is feeling if they have a runny nose or hoarse voice. Letting someone know they seem unusually quiet, and you are worried about them should be normalized.
By ensuring your employees recognize the warning signs of mental distress and check in with one another, you are creating a safe working environment. The more companies that participate in suicide prevention, the more normal mental health discussions will become.