When planning for jobsite hazards, what typically jumps to mind are threats like unprotected leading edges, or being struck by equipment or debris. But according to a recent study, suicide ideation is the risk we have been overlooking for far too long.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the construction industry has one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries, a rate about five times higher than the general population.
September serves as Suicide Prevention Month, with the construction industry dedicating a week to raising awareness of this critical – yet often stigmatized – issue. This week – September 4 through 10, 2022 – allows industry to come together to educate our community members, identify resources and shift our perception around this issue.
“Suicide is a difficult hazard to mitigate,” said Patricia Kagerer, Executive Vice President of Risk Management for Jordan Foster Construction in Texas. “You can’t point to it like an electrical hazard. And that’s one of the reasons that the issue gets overlooked.”
Kagerer says that the discrepancy in suicide rates among the general population and construction industry members is rooted in unaddressed shame and stigma associated with suicide, cultural issues and a lack of access to resources in dealing with mental health challenges
“It’s a male dominated industry and men don’t traditionally share their worries with their peers,” said Kagerer. “They may be away from home for months at a time on a jobsite and they are away from their family or their church – their traditional circles of support. It adds to the stress because men don’t want to ask for help – especially from other men.”
Also adding to the stress? The unique pressures and stress facing the workforce.
“You combine all the cultural issues with what we see in the workforce – the fact that there is a lot of turnover, depending upon the project and they may have a job one day and then the project ends, the fact that they often feel personally responsible if one of their own gets injured or hurt – it’s a very taxing profession,” said Kagerer.
“And the team is proud to be tough and work through issues. But we have to redefine what tough means. It means caring for yourself – emotionally and mentally as well as physically – and others. And that begins with education – knowing the signs, and knowing where to go for help.”
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. Last year, Jordan Foster staff, including their Field Safety Team, participated in suicide intervention skills training.
The results were staggering. Of the Jordan Foster staff surveyed, 15 percent had someone in mind that they could use their new skills with and 92 percent agreed that after completing training, if they were struggling with thoughts of suicide, they would now know how to get help.
As a result, MindForge will continue to expand our offerings to serve the construction industry as well as the wider community. Complimentary access to CIASP’s six-part Suicide Prevention video series and 5-part toolbox talks educational materials will be provided to clients and the wider community. Resources will be shared via Mindforge message center throughout the month and participation will require onboarding onto the MindForge portal. If you are not a member and are interested, click here for instructions.
“Every life matters,” said Stokes McIntyre, CEO of MindForge “It’s vital that industry partners, unions and the community work together to raise awareness about construction worker depression and suicide. While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides us with a dedicated time to come together to address this important topic.”
Access the free training
Gain access to CIASP's six-part Suicide Prevention video series and 5-part toolbox talks educational materials by clicking here.