Associated General Contractors Oregon Chapter

09/10/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/10/2019 10:56

Suicide Prevention in Construction: Why You SHOULD Be Talking About It

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry often lands among the top 10 industries at risk for suicide. Multiple demographic factors contribute to this including gender, age, and the educational level of the construction workforce. A recent medical study highlights the rising mortality rates of middle-aged males (aged 45-54) without a college education, which constitutes a large portion of construction's aging workforce in both the skilled and unskilled trades. Moreover, industry risk factors include the male-dominated workforce with a tough-guy culture, which reinforces reluctance among employees to reach out when their mental health is compromised. Thus, many treatable mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are going undiagnosed until they progress to catastrophic outcomes. Add to this the family and social isolation, sleep disĀ­ruption, and chronic pain often associated with field construction work, and many workers find themselves self-medicating with alcohol or becoming addicted to pain medication.

Untreated or mistreated mental health issues can be very costly to the workplace through direct medical costs as well as reduced productivity through presenteeism (working while sick) and absenteeism. Because most people consider mental health problems personal issues, most employers have not invested in finding ways to build policy, protocol, and programs to elevate mental health promotion and suicide prevention as health and safety priorities. There has not been widespread adoption of mental health in company wellness programs or much beyond basic Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to help promote mental health awareness in the construction workplace.

Fortunately, this is starting to change, and with the bold advocacy of some in our industry, more tools and resources are available to our workforce, but that isn't enough to stop these trends and save more lives. In order to get ahead of this issue, we need companies and industry leaders to be brave enough to speak about mental health and share those resources broadly within their sphere of influence.

Each person you know should have two numbers programmed in their phones: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the suicide prevention text line. And they should be informed that this resource exists not just for people who are suffering with feelings of doubt or self-harm, but also for those we may be concerned for. The crisis text line is 741-741 and can be accessed by simply texting hello to that number. The suicide lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). These free, confidential lines are staffed 24 hours a day and can be tremendously valuable to a person in crisis. However, in order to truly make an impact in this difficult epidemic, we need to focus our attention upstream. Upstream intervention gets resources, help, and compassion to people before they are in crisis. One way we are seeing people have success is acquiring mental health support before they feel despair, and often people need help seeing their mental health as something they can 'checkup' on their own. To that end, a resource was needed to truly connect with our construction audience in a way that is more comfortable and accessible than going to a counselor's office or calling your EAP. Thus, ManTherapy was born, as a tongue-in-cheek look at mental health for 'tough-guys' that connects a person to REAL resources. Through the website you can do a mental health quiz that will walk you through some questions and suggest options for how you can take charge of your mental health. You can view the website at: www.mantherapy.org.

Suffice to say, it can be uncomfortable talking about emotions, mental health, and suicide, but all these discussions are critically important and can make a huge difference for those who need support, and can make notable impact in your company culture, morale, and ultimately save lives.

Resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline800-273-TALK (8255)
    Free, confidential emotional support and referrals to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center
    The nation's only federally supported resource center provides technical assistance, training, and materials to increase the knowledge and expertise of professionals serving people at risk for suicide
  • Veterans Crisis Line 800-273-TALK (8255) Press 1
    Free, confidential emotional support and referrals to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress