There are approximately three jobsite fatalities in construction every day and an estimated 10 to 12 suicides among construction workers. In the construction industry, mental health awareness and suicide prevention are just as important as job safety issues.
Suicide and mental health are issues that are too often overlooked in our society. The construction industry, in particular, has one of the highest rates of suicide per industry. Mental illnesses are diseases affecting the brain that can be monitored and treated. According to many medical and psychological associations, including the American Psychological Association, suicide is preventable.
The Baltimore chapter of ASA held a 3-part series on Suicide Prevent in the Construction industry. These were small, but lively and open discussions about the issues that people are dealing with in their own lives, their companies, and the groups that they're active in, about how to confront and reduce the suicides in our industry. Here is a video of the second session (1.5 hours). We hope you find useful information - as we have.
Why Are There So Many Suicides in the Construction Industry?
By Bob Swanson, Swanson & Youngdale
In 2016, there were nearly 45,000 suicide deaths in the United States. This is an increase of 35% since 2008. It is also estimated that there are up to 25 suicide attempts for every suicide death.
The construction industry has the second highest suicide rate per industry. The suicide rate in our industry is 53 per 100,000,which is 4 times the rate of the general population. However, with the total number of individuals in construction, our industry has more suicide deaths than any other industry.
What contributes to this high rate of suicide in our industry?
- Our industry is customer driven, which means overnight travel, shift work, weekend work, and long hours are often required. These factors all impact personal relationships, normal sleep, and diet. They also affect the ability to maintain normal external support systems.
- Season work and project-specific employment creates financial insecurity and personal uncertainty.
- Long-term, repetitive work often results in chronic pain, which can lead to regular use of prescription medications and self medication. This can lead to an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.
- There is a general acceptance in our industry of the use of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Use of a firearm is a common means of suicide, and many in our industry own firearms because they enjoy hunting and shooting.
- An "old school, tough guy" persona is prevalent in our male-dominated industry. Due to this persona, employees are less likely to show any vulnerability or seek help.
It is essential for each of us to achieve a reasonable life balance of a healthy diet, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and stable personal relationships. For each person living with mental illness, a reasonable life balance is absolutely critical in preventing the onset of a mental crisis.
Remember that all mental illness is treatable and that suicide is preventable!
The industry must STAND up NOW for suicide prevention, and address it as a health and safety priority by creating Safe cultures, providing Training to identify and help those at risk, raising Awareness about the suicide crisis in construction, Normalizing conversations around suicide and mental health, and ultimately Decreasing the risks associated with suicide in construction.
Download these useful tools to STAND up for suicide prevention.
The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress. By calling or texting 988, you’ll connect to mental health professionals with the Lifeline network.