The Suicide Prevention Journey Continues With the Inaugural Construction Working Minds Summit

On May 17-18, 2022, the inaugural Construction Working Minds Summit was held in Denver, CO. The event — hosted by the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention, United Suicide Survivors International, and the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center — kicked off with an all-day training class led by Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas on day one. The class was maxed out with 33 participants and concentrated on education, storytelling, role-playing for uncomfortable conversations, and resource identification.

Day two began with industry leader member Cal Beyer who shared some history and statistics that have taken hold in construction and helped direct our companies toward more caring cultures. He recognized many of the people who were catalysts for the suicide prevention movement throughout the construction industry. Again filling the space to capacity were 200 eager participants along with exhibitors and vendors who offered services and resources to attendees. So many speakers who “walk the walk” of mental health and suicide prevention shared their stories and offered ideas to help incorporate suicide prevention into our existing safety structures.

David James accepting the Mental Health Visionary: Trade Association (National) Award for CFMA, accompanied by Cal Beyer & Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas.

One speaker of note, Jorgen Gullestrup, who is one of the key architects of MATES in Construction (an Australian group leading this charge among their construction workforce), offered insights into what has become a very successful MATES model. Roundtable discussions throughout the day allowed attendees to share ideas and challenges as we began to integrate suicide prevention into our safety cultures and worked toward normalizing the conversation among our workforce.

Sponsors for the event included the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention, CFMA, AGC, and notable CFMA member companies: Aldridge Electric, Graniterock, JE Dunn, Kiewit, Mtech Mechanical, Zurich, SSC Underground, Holmes Murphy, and CNA.

During the Summit, several individuals, organizations, and associations were recognized as “Visionaries” that were critical in initiating this movement, showed innovation in approach, provided broad offerings to stakeholders, and made a significant impact on suicide prevention. Among this elite group was CFMA, winning the Mental Health Visionary: Trade Association (National) Award! I had the honor of accepting this award for CFMA on stage, and Stuart Binstock, CFMA’s President & CEO and an industry leader in suicide prevention, provided a short video to express the support and dedication of CFMA to this industry issue.

This summit was a beginning — a starting point to reflect on how this movement was launched, celebrate the successes achieved, and learn from real-world experiences about how we can grow suicide prevention strategies among our industry peers.

Congratulations to Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, Cal Beyer, and the summit hosts for a job well done! On behalf of CFMA, I look forward to continuing the journey!


About the Author

David James

David James, CPA, CCIFP, is former CFO for FNF Construction, Inc., a heavy highway contractor, in Tempe, AZ.

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