We cannot let suicide continue to claim thousands of construction professionals’ lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. construction industry has one of the highest rates of death by suicide; in 2018, there were 5,242 deaths by suicide among construction workers, which was five times higher than construction worker fatalities on jobsites that same year. More than 15 suicides a day are reported for employees in this industry, which is five times higher than any other industry. Some 80 percent of workers with a mental health condition attribute their non-treatment to shame and stigma.
This is a national tragedy, and we must end these devastating deaths among our colleagues. We must shatter the stigma surrounding mental health issues with the goal of creating a zero-suicide construction industry.
We must equip these 7.7 million workers with the tools they need to prioritize mental health and protect their emotional wellbeing. They will use them.
Employers can build a resilient workforce by providing access to resources to improve total human health: physical, mental, emotional, social, mental, intellectual, financial, occupational and spiritual wellness. There are ways contractors can take this seriously and become more active with it. Here are two ways:
Through its partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) provides construction workers and employers with resources, including free suicide prevention training, a Suicide Prevention Lifeline call center, a Crisis Text Line, toolbox talks and speakers who can provide in-person, recorded and online education on suicide awareness, prevention and postvention. Tap into the resources available to you and your crews.
Closer to home, the Wisconsin Construction Wellness Community (WCWC) is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status designed to provide mental health education and outreach to individuals specifically in the construction industry. This group is focused on breaking the stigmas of mental health within the industry by providing in-person seminars and training, as well as support materials for the worksite. The group will begin communications with a kick-off meeting in October 2022, with a number of public events to follow. September would be a great time to connect with this new organization.
Construction workers work with tools every day, and we must equip these 7.7 million workers with the tools they need to prioritize mental health and protect their emotional wellbeing. They will use them.