September 28, 2022

Education on Suicide Ideation Key to Saving Lives

When Jimmy* received his first opportunity to lead a project as manager, he was thrilled. It was the chance he had worked towards for years.

“Ever since I was an intern, I had been dreaming of managing a project,” said the 15-year veteran of the industry. “I was so excited, and then the disaster happened.”

The disaster Jimmy described was massive rework that was needed as a result of a miscommunication.

“I felt horrible, and so stressed out,” he said. “Like a big loser.”

After that – although he had been assured that mistakes happen by his supervisor – he felt his confidence ebb. 

“I began to think that everyone was judging me, thinking that I wasn’t up to the task,” he said. “Before I knew it, I was starting to spiral downwards.”

The spiral was so steep that Jimmy went from thoughts of: “‘Why am I here, in this position’ to “‘Why am I here – on this Earth,’” he said. “It was scary.”

Jimmy isn't alone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that working in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries, a rate about five times higher than the general population.

MindForge has partnered with the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP), an organization committed to providing resources for suicide prevention and mental health promotion to create a zero-suicide industry. On the MindForge platform, free resources are offered to the public – including tool box talks, trainings and more.

The training can make all the difference, says Patricia Kagerer, Executive Vice President of Risk Management for Jordan Foster Construction in Texas.

“Suicide ideation is very lonely, especially in the construction industry,” she said. “Part of that is because it’s a male dominated industry and men don’t traditionally share their worries with their peers.”

But starting a simple conversation, said Kagerer, is one way to help someone feel that he or she isn’t alone.

“You don’t have to be an expert,” she said. “You just have to care.”

Fortunately, Jimmy was able to confide in his supervisor when he asked him if all was fine.

“He just stopped by the trailer one day and asked, ‘You okay? You seem down.’,” Jimmy relayed. “And I opened up to him.”

Jimmy’s supervisor made a call to their company’s Human Resources Director and was able to get Jimmy some assistance. 

“It probably saved my life,” he said. “I know it saved my sanity, and my career. And I was able to develop some strategies to deal with my mental health long-term.”

Helping a colleague means knowing the signs that someone may be at risk for suicide, said Kagerer – and engaging the team leads who know their colleagues. 

Signs that someone may be at risk for suicide include:
  • Increased tardiness and absenteeism
  • Decreased productivity
  • Decreased self-confidence
  • Isolation from peers
  • Agitation and increased conflict among co-workers
  • Increased feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Decreased problem solving ability
  • Legal and illicit substance abuse
  • Near hits, incidents and injuries
For more information or to access resources related to suicide prevention – including tool talks that can be used with crews, go to https://www.mindforge.live/suicide-prevention

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