Work-related stress can have severe impacts on mental health, and without proper support, people struggling with mental health issues may turn to substance abuse and even suicide. During Suicide Prevention Month, we’re getting the word out about the importance of supporting workers’ mental health.
Construction workers are more at risk
Suicide rates in some populations are on the rise nationwide, and men working in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared with other industries – about four times higher than the general population.
Some of their work-related risk factors could include inconsistent or seasonal work, demanding schedules and workplace injuries that are sometimes treated with opioids. In fact, the National Safety Council has found that an estimated 19 percent of construction workers have substance use disorders – more than double the national average. And, the industry’s “tough guy” culture can make it hard to ask for help when it comes to mental health.
As the agency dedicated to ensuring workers are safe and healthy on the job, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is working with others to raise awareness about the importance of mental health safety in the workplace – especially in the construction industry.
Suicide Prevention Stand-Down
OSHA is teaming with industry partners, unions and educators in a Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down Sept. 6-10 to raise awareness about the unique challenges construction workers face, and encourage employers to make mental health a part of their safety conversations.
We’re asking industry leaders to discuss the types of stress that can push construction workers into depression and toward suicide, and encourage employers to share and discuss available resources with their workers.
The Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down started as a regional initiative in OSHA’s Kansas City and St. Louis offices, and more than 5,000 people participated last year.
Workplace resources for talking about suicide
Like many workplace challenges, employers play a critical role in preventing suicides. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is an opportunity for all of us to observe and speak out about the need to take care of our mental health. OSHA’s suicide prevention page includes resources for workers on how to recognize the signs of suicide, how to seek help and how to talk to someone who may be contemplating suicide.
Together we can make a difference, but we have to discard any stigmas and talk about this issue openly. A conversation could save someone’s life.
We hope you’ll join us and share the following information on suicide prevention in the construction industry:
Jim Frederick is the acting assistant secretary for OSHA, Karena Lorek is the OSHA area director in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kristina Lenoch is the OSHA assistant regional administrator for compliance assistance programs in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow OSHA on Twitter at @OSHA_DOL.