What are the main factors that lead to higher suicide rates in the construction industry and how it can be prevented?
With 53.2 suicides per 100 thousand workers, construction has among the greatest suicide rate of any industry. Male workers that work in construction have a 65% higher rate than all U.S male workers according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Report from Workwear Guru examines contributing factors for the high rates of suicide, citing mental health experts. These factors include:
- A high work-pressure environment
- Work at remote locations
- “Tough-guy” mentality
- Opioids dependency
1. A high work-pressure environment
The report notes that the construction field often involves high-pressure work, tight deadlines, long physical working hours, budgets and quality expectations can lead to high stress, which can contribute to mental health problems.
2. Work at remote locations
According to the experts, construction work often requires work in remote locations. Living in hotels can be a lonely experience. Being away from family can lead to problems in marriages and parenting. Moreover mental health or substance abuse challenges may be more likely to go unnoticed or unaddressed in situations like this.
3. The “tough-guy” mentality
Greg Sizemore, VP of EHS and workforce development at Associated Builders and Contractors says that construction is an industry dominated by males, usually coming from low socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. As a result, masculinity plays a role in the workplace. Masculinity can make employees shy away from expressing their mental health problems, which can drive them to suicide.
4. The opioids dependency
Construction is one of the industries with the highest occupational hazards happening every year. The injury rate for construction workers is 77 times higher compared to the national level, according to the American Society of Safety Professionals.
“Construction is also an industry with high levels of pain – and chronic pain, in particular, is the definition of misery. Because of this, construction is also the industry with the highest use of prescription opioids. And now we are all well aware of the opioid addiction crisis in the US and the devastation it is causing.” says Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas a clinical psychologist, an impact entrepreneur, and a well-being writer.
What Can Employers Do to Prevent Suicides Among Construction Workers?
Companies need to provide resources to their employees
The best advice you can give to a person with suicidal thoughts is to direct them to certified professionals and resources. For employers, one way to do this is to add prevention resources such as National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or Construction Working Minds, in common where employees can see them.
Organizations need to create a culture of support for mental health issues
Construction companies understand the value of discussing workplace physical safety. Employees go over training and various resources before they start working on site. Companies should follow the same tenacious attitude in addressing mental health, says Sizemore. The starting point starts with leaders setting a clear tone that it is okay to have and talk about mental health issues, adds Amanda McGough a Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist at BASE Cognitive Behavioral.
Construction companies need to provide Employee Assistance Programs
“Construction companies need to train all employees in peer-to-peer programs such as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) or The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Talk Saves Lives or Livingworks’ safeTALK. These programs can equip colleagues to spot concerns in themselves, in one another or in their loved ones and give them the tools to be able to provide support and connect that person with professional care.” says McGough.
How to prevent suicide?
If you notice any suicide warnings signs in someone, it is vital to take the next step and help them get out of their state. These steps include: starting a conversation, asking honest questions about how the other person is feeling, and directing them to professional care (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255 or Crisis Text Line TALK to 741-741)
Some of the most common warning signs include:
- An increase of lateness and absenteeism at work
- Lower productivity
- Lower self-confidence
- Decreased communication with co-workers
- Shows signs of substance abuse
- Shows frequent signs of agitation
- Lack of protection in the workplace
- Segregation from the group (i.e., eating lunch alone)
Notes to Editors
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About this report
Workwear Guru conducted this study by interviewing several mental health experts, statisticians and health & safety professionals, aiming to raise awareness and spread hope to prevent suicides.
Here you can read the full report: https://workwearguru.com/construction-workers-suicide-rates/