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Suicide Frequency in Construction Leads All Other Industry Groups

Chris Runyan
OCA President

Construction Suicide PreventionWeek is now in the rearview mirror but there remains a bright light that continues to shine on the issue of suicides in construction – and rightfully so.

Suicides continue to occur, and resources are needed on an ever-continuing basis to assist in quelling the ongoing pandemic of suicides in the construction industry. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that men working in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries. Their suicide rate is about four-times higher than the general population. Ranked against OSHA’s Fatal Four Hazards, which draw much of the attention, suicide would top the list.

The construction industry is no stranger to hard work and demanding schedules. The relentless pace and pressures of the job can take a toll on mental health, which can lead to any number of mental health crises, including suicide. Other common risk factors include high prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse; end-of-season layoffs; physical injury; and separation from families. It doesn’t help that approximately 90% of construction workers are men who historically underreport mental health issues and, as a result, are more reluctant to seek treatment.

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Prevention of suicide in the construction industry is a shared responsibility of workers, employers and industry stakeholders. First and foremost, of importance is education – education that helps to remove the stigmas surrounding suicide so those needing aid are not hesitant to seek help. Education is also needed that guides those who are suffering to places where help can be found, as well as informing employers on ways that guidance can be provided. Examples of helpful resources from employers would include supervisory symptom recognition training; creating a supportive environment where workers feel comfortable seeking help – rather than identifying emotions and feelings related to suicidal thoughts as a weakness; clearly identifying support resources such as suicide prevention hotlines or online resources; and offering counseling services as part of an overall mental health wellness plan.

As for efforts through the association, you will find a host of resources on the OCA website under the banner headline Mental Health & Addiction Resources. In late August, prior to this year’s Construction Suicide Prevention Week, September 5-9, OCA sponsored a training session that addressed mental health training including suicide behavioral awareness. Please let us know if programs such as this would be welcomed by your company.

Suicide is a significant issue in the construction industry, affecting both individuals and the sector’s overall productivity. It’s crucial for construction companies to prioritize the mental wellbeing of their workers and implement strategies to address and prevent life experiences that would lead an individual to contemplate suicide. By recognizing the signs, understanding the causes and promoting a culture of support, the heavy/highway industry can create a healthier, more sustainable work environment for its dedicated professionals.

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