The construction and extraction industries have the second-highest rate of suicide - 53.3 per 100,000 workers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that suicide is a silent killer in the construction industry. Mental health issues often don't strike us as something inherently dangerous in the construction industry like a crane flying through the air, or a forklift speeding through a construction site, but when you consider factors from the job, we begin to see the dangers associated with the industry that have nothing to do with forklifts, but more to do with mental health.
Educating and Watch for the Signs
If proper mental health training is put in place, tragedies can often be avoided. For managers and team leaders, knowing the signs of severe depression and knowing when to take action can put you in a position to help others when they need it most. Initiating mental health campaigns and training other employees on warning signs can help them step in when they see a coworker under undue stress, potentially saving a life. This training doesn't have to be complicated, it can be done on a mobile device if you are using a cloud-based learning and development software. Any training that can build awareness and get your employees thinking and watching for the warning signs is what matters.
A few signs to watch for include:
- Increased lateness, absenteeism and presenteeism (showing up to work physically, but not being able to function)
- Decreased productivity due to distraction and cognitive slowing
- Lack of self-confidence
- Isolation from peers
- Agitation and increased interpersonal conflict among co-workers
- Increased voluntary and involuntary attrition
- Increased feelings of being overwhelmed
- Decreased problem solving ability
Having resources available for your employees is another vital tactic in combating the suicide epidemic. Having in-house counseling resources is incredible, but for many companies that isn't feasible and for many individuals, because of the stigma surrounding mental health, the resources may not be used. Providing them with contracts for outside resources is a great alternative.
OMP.gov helps us to understand one invaluable resource that is available, EAPs. "An EAP or Employee Assitance Program is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related programs. EAPs address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders."
End the Stigma
Unfortunately the way that the construction industry operates it doesn't always prioritize mental health in this predominately male-dominated industry, inconsistent work hours, significant time away from home, lack of job security and poor working conditions all surrounded by a mental health stigma of "man up" it can be a very detrimental mix.
This "man up" attitude that often is part of the mental health stigma, especially in a male-dominated industry like construction, can be one of the hardest things to combat. When someone is suffering and is convinced that all they need to do is "man up" to get better, it can be a challenge to get them help in time. Taking initiative and lending a hand is the first step. A group of trade workers in Australia got quite tired of hearing the phrase "man up," so they decided to reclaim the phrase. They launched the "Man up and speak up" campaign to encourage other individuals in construction to check on their coworkers when they have a feeling something might be up, to take the initiative and be that hand in moment of need.
This September, take an extra step to ensure this tragedy doesn't fall on your company. Add some new training into your employee development program and speak to your staff about the importance of speaking up if they see something out of the ordinary.