September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and it is an especially important cause for those who work in construction.
According to a July report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate for construction workers is the second highest of all industries (farming, fishing and forestry was first). The report showed that 53.3 construction workers out of every 100,000 fall to suicide. A stark difference to the overall suicide rate of 12.93 people per 100,000 in the United States.
Before we can understand why suicide is so prevalent in construction, let’s take a look at the national picture. As reported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention:
According to the last figures available from 2014, 42,773 Americans died by suicide (an average of 117 suicides per day)
- For every suicide, there are 25 attempts
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States
- Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women
- White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2014
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle age – white men in particular
Research from the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, an organization focused on suicide prevention, has found that industries with the highest risk of suicide have the following factors:
- A male dominated workforce
- A widespread substance abuse problem
- A shift work system
- Access to a lethal means for suicide
- Fearlessness in a risk-taking environment
With these statistics and key factors of suicide in mind, the connection to what is being called an epidemic of suicide in the construction industry becomes more clear, especially when you consider the fact that the construction workforce is nearly 91 percent male, and 64 percent white.
Downloads to click, print and circulate:
Building a Zero Suicide Industry
Face Suicide Warning Signs Before It’s Too Late
“As a worker in construction, there is the nearly constant uncertainty about the next job and your finances,” Bob Swanson, a longtime IUPAT paint and drywall contractor in Minnesota, recently told the Painters and Allied Trades Journal. “There is also the fact that people who are suffering from mental issues that are making them depressed or suicidal need structure in their lives. The work schedule in construction can change on a dime which can cause stress. Also, our line of work often calls for travel. If you’re working on the road in a town where you don’t know anyone, and you lack the support system you have in place at home, alcohol and drug abuse can become a problem which makes the troubles you’re going through even worse.”
Swanson became involved with the suicide prevention cause after losing his oldest son to suicide in 2009. He was 33 and lived with bipolar disorder. Swanson now speaks with groups throughout the country about suicide prevention.
The IUPAT PATCH Foundation is holding a campaign that promises $1 will be donated to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ending the Silence Program for each LIKE received on its Facebook page – www.Facebook.com/PATCHfoundation.
The Painters and Allied Trades LMCI is featuring a presentation and discussion on suicide prevention to union and business leaders at its annual Finishing Industries Forum in December.
The Finishing Contractors International, an organization representing IUPAT signatory employers, is a partner in the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CFMA). The goal of the alliance is to provide and disseminate information and resources for suicide prevention and mental health promotion in construction.
IUPAT labor and management are united in confronting the enormous toll suicide is taking on men and women working in construction. It is up to all of us to look for the following warning signs in our fellow workers and in our families and take action to prevent a turn for the worse. Remember, suicide is always preventable.
Some behaviors may indicate that a person is at immediate risk for suicide.
The following three should prompt you to immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or a mental health professional.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself. Communication may be veiled, such as: “I just can’t take it anymore.” or “What’s the use?”
- Looking for ways to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Other behaviors may also indicate serious risk – especially if the behavior is new, has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings (SPRC)