Disclaimer: The information presented here represents the experience and opinions of the author.
One would expect accidents to be the leading cause of death among the construction industry, but the rate of suicide in construction is actually higher than fatalities from OSHA’s top four construction hazards.
Mental health conditions are significant, yet often invisible, risk factors for suicide, and anxiety and depression have been found to be more prevalent among younger workers and those who have used prescription opioids.
Especially prevalent in the construction industry is an overabundance of high-risk tasks that workers are expected to deal with quickly under tough conditions. This particularly hits home for Specialty Trade contractors, who regularly perform very physical and intricate work under continuous pressure to meet schedules and budgets. Other work-related risk factors include chronic pain, substance misuse, and isolation.
HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Conversations can make a difference by bringing mental health and suicide prevention out in the open, normalizing the topic, spreading awareness, and helping to facilitate healing.
A construction company can best support its employees by promoting a caring culture in which employees are listened to and understood. In fact, meaningful connections can encourage conversations that can save lives.
Below are some important action steps your company can take to incorporate mental health into its culture:
- Create opportunities for conversation: Normalizing conversations around mental health and suicide and simply talking about them in the workplace can help employees feel comfortable enough to discuss difficult issues.
- Offer training: Making training available to employees can help them recognize when someone is struggling and know where to go for help.
- Encourage fellowship: Promoting a closely bonded workforce can encourage employees to support each other and help them detect signs that a peer may be struggling.
- Offer paid time-off: Offering paid time-off for physical and mental health will help promote a healthier environment, especially for employees who can’t take unpaid time off.
- Develop a respectful workplace: Companies benefit from inclusiveness and treating their employees with respect, responsibility, and care.
- Promote your EAP: Actively advertise your company’s employee assistance program and encourage employees to enter its phone number in their cell phones for an easier reach out.
- Engage your leadership: When leaders engage with all aspects of the workforce, it helps foster and build a caring culture that supports worker wellbeing.
For more information and resources, check out the Needs Analysis & Implementation Tool that was developed by the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention to aid companies in evaluating how they address mental health and suicide prevention in the construction workplace. It also helps determine how prepared they, and their employees, are to handle a mental health or suicide crisis.