Written by: Tanna White
Like many of you, I subscribe to several weekly, industry-specific electronic newsletters and it was within one of these newsletters a few weeks back that I came across a statistic so shocking that I had to reread it out of pure disbelief.
This particular article was referencing statistics from the latest Morbidity and Mortality Report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which highlighted that males working in the construction and extraction industries took their lives at a higher rate than any other industry. In fact, the CDC’s report compared the suicides of more than 22,000 people across 17 states in 2012 and 2015 finding that male construction workers took their lives at a rate of roughly 44 per 100,000 working persons and, unfortunately, the numbers have continued to increase; in fact, the rate for construction and extraction workers from 2012 to 2015 rose by 22 percent.
As someone new to the construction field, I was stunned by this information but assumed I was simply unaware of the rates due to my limited exposure. However, as I shared the information with others around me their surprise was palpable. It was in this moment that I knew we needed to be more cognizant of the mental health of our own employees and, with May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, right now seemed like an excellent opportunity to get started shining a light on this dark topic.
While mental health history is a key indicator for an increased risk of suicide, it is critical to look beyond to other factors which led to a question that kept repeating in my mind – why. Why are the rates for these industries so high? What are the unique factors in these industries that could be contributing to such high rates? Through further “Googling” I uncovered multiple articles that referred to the construction industry as a “perfect storm” due to the conglomeration of risk factors at play, including:
The risk factors encountered in these industries themselves were not surprising and seemed quite logical. The surprise came when I reviewed this list in its entirety and began evaluating the risk factors that directly impact our employees. MCL is lucky enough to be able to work on a majority of local projects, so our teams don’t experience all the risk factors listed above, but they are impacted by at least 7 out of 10 factors. This clearly indicates that our employees are at a higher risk than other industries, but what warning signs should we be searching for? Are there different warning signs depending on the level of risk? There are documented signs and symptoms that have shown to be indicators of suicidal thoughts and, depending on the sign or symptom, the individual may be considered at an immediate or serious risk.
Some behaviors may indicate that the individual is at immediate risk for suicide. If someone is exhibiting any of the following, you should immediately contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or a mental health professional.
Any of the following items could be an indicator for someone who may be at serious risk for suicide or depression.
And always make sure to assist them in locating and contacting additional qualified resources as research indicates that those who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully 80% - 90% of the time. If you notice warning signs yourself or a coworker exhibiting any warning signs, reach out to a trusted coworker, your direct supervisor, or Human Resources and be aware of all of the additional resources available.
Tanna White is the Director of Training and Development for MCL Construction. She has a Masters in Organizational Communication from the Univesity of Northern Iowa.
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