September is Suicide Prevention Month. But for all of us in the OPCMIA International Training Fund and for all OPCMIA members, every month—indeed, every single day—requires constant vigilance about preventing suicide.
Suicide is a hidden epidemic in our industry and it’s imperative that we bring it out into the open. Because every single day, there are an estimated 10 to 12 suicides among construction workers, compared to approximately three jobsite fatalities. In fact, construction occupations have the highest rate of suicide, as well as the highest number of suicides across all occupational groups. So mental health awareness and suicide prevention are every bit as critical to our mission as job safety issues.
As the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP) notes, what’s needed is to create safe cultures, provide training to identify and help those at risk, raise awareness about the suicide crisis in construction, normalize conversations around suicide and mental health, and ultimately decrease the risks associated with suicide in construction.
Key steps include:
- Knowing the signs. There’s no single cause of suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It most often occurs when stress and health issues converge to create feelings of hopelessness and despair. Recognizing warning signs—through conversations, social media posts or changes in behavior—may help determine if someone you know is struggling. If you or someone you know has exhibited one or more of these signs and is at immediate risk of suicide, get help now.
- Taking a Behavioral Health Screening. Just as routine check-ups and screenings can be effective in recognizing early signs of physical illnesses, a quick, anonymous online screening is also a way to evaluate your behavioral health. Early identification of a mental health or substance use issue can lead to earlier treatment, which in turn results in an increased chance of recovery and an improved quality of life.
- Recognizing risk factors. A combination of environmental, health, historical, and occupational factors can increase the risk of suicide. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when left untreated, increase the risk for suicide. For anyone working in the building trades, it is especially important to keep the risk factors in mind.
There are a growing number of resources available to help trainers, officers, contractors and members understand the issue, start a conversation, and play a role in supporting friends, co-workers and family members. Please take a moment to look through them. The CIASP and CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training websites have a host of links with access to valuable information to help you learn what to look out for and what to do.
Simply put, our brothers’ and sisters’ lives are at stake. Just as we take aggressive action to secure our members’ physical health and safety on the job, we must do the same to protect their mental health and prevent suicide. Let’s use Suicide Prevention Month as a spur to year-round action to save lives.