A recent study by the CDC found that the construction industry has the second highest suicide rate in the United States. Construction workers are nearly four times more likely to take their own lives than workers in the general population. More construction workers will die by suicide than by falls, struck-by, caught-in-between, and electrocution combined. Approximately 5,500 people die each year due to suicide. For every 100,000 workers, 46 will die by suicide. Additionally, roughly 15% of veterans enter the construction workforce. Veterans have a 50% higher rate of suicide than the general population.
Construction workers are at a high risk of suicide due to several factors:
- High stress work environment
- Unaddressed mental health symptoms
- Drug and alcohol use
- “Tough guy” culture
- When a workplace has a culture of recklessness, bravery, and/or stoicism, and people are rewarded for being tough, they will be less likely to reach out and ask for help
- The idea that asking for help is embarrassing and will incur bullying or punishment
- Limited access to treatment
- Seasonal layoffs/end of project furloughs
- Poor support from the company
- Lack of sleep
The first step towards preventing suicides is recognizing the warning signs. For construction workers, warning signs may include:
- Increased conflict among coworkers
- Increased tardiness and absenteeism
- Decreased productivity
- Decreased self-confidence
- Isolation from peers
- Near misses, incidents, and injuries
How to start the conversation
Sit down with the person and let them know that you have noticed warning signs in their behavior and that you are worried about them. Ask if they are considering or have considered committing suicide. Offer kindness and support. Use the following conversation template if you feel unsure about how to start the conversation:
“I have noticed _______ (list specific behaviors) and I am concerned about you.”
“Given what you’ve been going through, it would make sense if you’re considering suicide. Where’s your head at?”
“Thanks for trusting me. I’m here for you. I have some ideas that might help. Do you want my support?”
While starting a conversation like this may seem daunting, it can save a life. Reluctance to discuss suicide can contribute to the stigma surrounding the topic. Removing the shame associated with suicide can make those who are considering suicide more comfortable seeking support.
What you can do
Be prepared to have tough conversations with your peers when needed.
Take care of yourself; maintain healthy sleeping and eating habits, and take time off work when needed.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for support from family, friends, or professionals. Resources for help and support are listed at the bottom of this article.
What employers can do
Employers should take the following steps to prevent workplace suicides:
- Create and foster a respectful, inclusive work environment
- Be aware of the warning signs and identify at-risk employees. Train supervisors on warning signs and ways to offer support.
- Develop a program or plan, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), to support at-risk employees
Resources for employers and employees
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Man Therapy
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Partnership For Workplace Mental Health
- Construction Working Minds
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
- 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish)
- Suicide & Crisis Lifeline:
- Call or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org/chat to chat with a caring counselor