I stood on a roof tearing off shingles in the sweltering heat. I was surrounded by a crew of fellow workers who were engaged in conversation. The topic focused on their drug of choice and the time they’d spent in prison. My thoughts began to wander as I contemplated my future. I was a 22-year-old with all the promise in the world. My circumstances while growing up should have steered me away from this reality – was this my future? Continued drug use, alcohol abuse, the possibility of prison? I needed hope. Two years later, I sat in a gentlemen’s living room pouring out my fears, insecurities, and anger while absorbing his experience, strength, and hope. My life changed forever in that living room, the hope and support I received were the catalyst to get on track. — Anonymous contributor
This is the reality. Depression, mental health, addiction, alcoholism, and suicide are topics that often get dismissed and overlooked in society, specifically in the workplace. However, in 2022, the United States lost 200 million workdays due to depression. Employees experiencing depression are two times more likely to leave their job, and the cost to replace them is 33% of the employee’s salary. Every day, there are 130 deaths due to suicide in the U.S. alone, which equates to someone taking their life every 12 minutes.
The construction industry is more at risk for suicide than most other industries. The National Safety Council reported that 19% of construction workers in the United States suffer from substance abuse, which is more than double the national average. Opioid use, which can be used for pain management, increases the likelihood of suicide by 75%.
These are overwhelming statistics, but some believe better support can come from employers once they’re equipped to do so.
The Skiles Group, a construction company in Richardson Texas, has implemented safety stand downs and mental health cohorts for all associates. The services offered include handouts that are sent to all employees on a monthly basis that outline the warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts, along with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number. All associates are encouraged to engage in personal reflection and support colleagues who may be showing any of the signs. The Skiles Group has also established an application where employees can access free counseling sessions 24 hours a day, all covered by the company’s insurance. Simply leaving resources, help lines, and national information handouts in a breakroom can be extremely helpful for an associate who may be dealing with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
Additionally, local agencies are there to support employers’ efforts. The Suicide Crisis Center of North Texas offers a 24-hour Crisis Line, which is staffed by trained, caring volunteers who are available to listen and respond. The services provided via the Crisis Line are always free and confidential. If someone is suicidal behavior, the center does take appropriate safety steps, which include contacting the police and following up with the person for several days after the initial check-in call.
To reach a Suicide and Crisis Center volunteer, individuals may call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)-273-TALK (8255). Along with this and other resources the center offers, they also provide support for those affected after a loved one has died by suicide. Employees who may have been affected by a colleague’s suicide are also supported via the center.
For more information on the resources offered via this organization, visit the Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas. Please check your local directory for similar resources.
I Need a Job!
AnnMarie De Le Vega, of De La Vega Capital & Development in Dallas Texas, was engaged in a remodel at her home. The HVAC company sent a worker AnnMarie came to know through conversation and learned he’d recovered from alcoholism through the support of the Dallas 24 Hour Club, and the subsequent support from an employer who solely employed recovering addicts and alcoholics. Just prior to meeting the HVAC employee, De La Vega Group had recently swept a homeless community off land that they were grading to prepare for a multi-use development in the heart of Dallas. The displacement didn’t settle well for AnnMarie, and the serendipitous interaction at her home got her thinking. AnnMarie picked up the phone and called her friend, Marsha Williamson, CEO of the Dallas 24 Hour Club. The 24-Hour Club in Dallas, Texas is a resource for those who have fallen on hard times due to mental health issues and addiction. Each year, the Dallas 24 Hour Club helps over 600 individuals get off the streets, find employment, reconnect with family members, learn to live independently, and most importantly, embrace recovery. Visit the Dallas 24 Hour Club to learn more, and check your local directory for similar services in your area.
De La Vega and Williamson met over coffee and an idea was born. Encourage construction companies to hire from the recovery community and help equip the industry to support these employees. It’s no secret, once a person recovers, they begin a journey as a reliable, honest, hard-working member of society. It was this conversation that initiated other conversations. They included Brad Anderson, Chair of the DFW CFMA (Construction Financial Management Association) Suicide Prevention Committee, Jenyce Gush of the Crisis Center, and Brian Webster of The Skiles Group. This group formed to present a panel discussion at the DFW CFMA Chapter luncheon in March 2023, and the response was overwhelming – the construction community desires this type of initiative. It is no secret that the industry has struggled to find laborers for decades. Why not fill a small portion of the gap with these hard-working, recovered individuals? When you take the energy behind the Skiles Group initiatives, alongside the support of the North Texas Crisis Center, the Dallas 24 Hour Club and the hearts of Williamson, De La Vega Anderson and CFMA, you’re setting up a community to heal, to recover, and thrive.
Raising awareness is the first step towards relieving the severe mental health struggles the industry faces. Removing the stigma around depression, anxiety, and substance abuse is critical. Change happens when members of the same community come together with solutions that satisfy specific goals. The efforts in Dallas are only the beginning, but the community is rising together to bring hope, recovery, and a platform to thrive through employment. There are organization across the country providing similar services, please research your local service providers and contact the resources below with questions.
Mental Health, Suicide Prevention Committee Chair, DFW CFMA
Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas
24 Hour Club
Annmarie De La Vega
De La Vega Capital & Development