Get Serious About Construction Suicide - Strong and Silent Isn’t Healthy

Building Indiana Business

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Boss or laborer, men in construction rarely talk about how they’re feeling. That’s probably why the suicide rate for tough construction guys is twice that of other industries. Even with all the jobsite dangers faced every day, a construction worker is five times more likely to commit suicide than be killed by a workplace accident. It’s among the top causes of death in the industry.

It’s time to get serious about mental health in construction and encourage men to open up and start talking about what they’re experiencing.

No, It’s Not Just You.

Anyone experiencing mental health concerns in the construction industry should know they’re not alone. Not by a long shot, actually. Things like anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide are way more common than most people expect.

Up to 83% of construction industry workers experience some form of moderate to severe mental health issue during their careers, according to research from the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan and BC Building Trades (BCBT). This affects all levels of companies, from executives to laborers.

Why Does This Happen?

Roughly 90% of construction workers are men. The reasons for the high suicide rate in construction has a lot to do with perceptions of how a man is supposed to act. But strong and silent isn’t healthy.

Construction’s culture makes this issue a lot worse. Vulnerability is discouraged, so mental illnesses typically go untreated.

“Men with mental illnesses are less likely to receive mental health treatment. And men are more likely to die by suicide,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

A major correlating factor is substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol abuse rates are substantially higher for the construction industry than others, and they are known to significantly increase the risk of suicide.

“Employees of the construction industry have nearly twice the rate of substance abuse as the national average. Around 15% of all construction workers in the United States have a substance abuse disorder compared to 8.6% of the general population of adults,” according to American Addiction Centers and data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Start Talking.

The only way for construction to reverse this trend is to stop encouraging silence. Men need to get out of their way of thinking.

If a guy has a broken leg, everyone understands his goal to get help. Trouble with the mind and difficulties with processing emotions should be no different. There are fixes out there. Men just need to know that it’s alright to talk to their doctors, coworkers, and family members about it.

This can only start with a big shift in the way men treat each other, both on and off the jobsite. Pressuring one another into being 100% tough all the time is just going to get more people killed. Companies and crews can no longer condone the type of conduct that makes men bottle everything up.

This type of change is going to happen across many small interactions. It starts by recognizing the problem and pointing it out when it’s happening.

For example, if someone says something like, “What’ve you got to be depressed about? Man up.” It’s important to recognize that statement as damaging. It invalidates whatever the other person is going through. Again, no one would ever say that about a broken leg. People would say to go to the doctor and get the leg fixed.

When invalidations like those occur, they need to be called out. The more men recognize how much they’re perpetuating the cycle of suicide, the more they can change. This will happen slowly, one interaction at a time. But sometimes, all it takes is one moment of courage to save someone’s life. Especially if the person is going through a difficult time with mental health.

Start Now.

There will be men out there that roll their eyes at this article. There will be those who say this is weakness. But at the same time, those men may know of someone in their industry that’s committed suicide. Maybe they’ve even quietly dealt with their own mental health concerns, alone and ashamed to admit they’re going through something. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Would it be worth changing this behavior to save more lives?

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255).

Or text IN to 741741.

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