Every year, suicide rates in the United States climb higher and higher. On average, there are 133 suicides per day and according to a study by the CDC, over 47,000 people in the United States died by suicide each year.
If we drill down specifically to the construction industry, the problem is even more pronounced. A recent study in January 2020 found that the rate of suicides in construction is the second highest in the country, at approximately 5,500 suicides each year. For every 100,000 construction workers, over 45 will end up committing suicide. This is compared to the national average of over 14, which means that a person working in construction is 3.5 times more likely to take their own life. In fact, construction workers are more likely to die by suicide than from any other cause of death except accidents on the job.
So why are suicides so prevalent in the construction industry? And what can companies do to provide a safe environment for their employees? Let's take a closer look at mental health awareness in the construction industry and some of the factors that contribute to the high suicide rate.
Construction work can be incredibly demanding, both mentally and physically. Long hours, tight deadlines, and exposure to dangerous working conditions can all take a toll on a person's mental health. What's more, construction workers are often reluctant to seek help for fear of being seen as weak or unable to handle the job. As a result, mental health issues often go unaddressed until they reach a crisis point.
There are several other factors that contribute to the high suicide rate in the construction industry. For instance, employees who are dissatisfied with their jobs are more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes. Because of the nature of the work, many construction workers feel like they don't have much control over their lives or their working conditions. This lack of control can lead to feelings of helplessness and despair.
In addition to these workplace-related factors, some personal factors can contribute to an increased risk of suicide. For example, alcohol abuse is common among construction workers and has been linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Other risk factors include a history of depression or other mental illness, physical illness, financial stressors, relationship problems and a family history of mental illness or suicide.
While the reasons for suicide can be complex, there are steps that companies can take to help manage and prevent suicide in the workplace. First, companies need to learn about the warning signs of suicide. These can include changes in mood, withdrawal from social activities, talking about wanting to die and giving away personal belongings. If an employee shows any of these signs, it's important to create an open and safe environment where they feel comfortable discussing their problems, while also encouraging them to seek professional help.
It’s also important to provide easy access to resources for employees and to create safety guides for dealing with mental health, including actions to take if someone appears to be in danger of harming themselves. By taking these steps, companies can create a culture of safety and support that can help reduce the incidence of suicide in the construction industry.
Companies can create a safe environment for employees by promoting open communication about mental health struggles, providing access to resources and professional help when needed, and encouraging employees to lean on each other for support without shame or judgment. By raising awareness and taking measures to prevent suicides, we can save lives in the construction industry.
RK values its employees and understands the importance of creating a work environment that is safe, physically and mentally. Safety is the number one core value at RK and mental health awareness is a big part of the culture whether you are on a jobsite or in the office. We encourage employees to check in with their teammates to let them know you care about their well-being and provide training to help them better understand when to seek help for themselves or their teammates.
For information on our Employee Assistance Program, you can call 1.800.327.1850 or visit guidanceresources.com. This is available 24/7 for confidential support.
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Written by Ileana Morales