By: Sydney Paschall on September 6th, 2022
Suicide in Construction: Awareness & Resources for Prevention
There are approximately 133 deaths by suicide per day in the United States. This equates to someone taking their own life every 11 minutes. To better understand the causes and how to combat this issue, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey to discover which industries and occupations were at the most risk for suicides.
The results from the most recent study in January 2020 found that the rate of suicides in construction is the second highest in the country, at approximately 5,500 suicides each year. For every 100,000 construction workers, 45.3 will end up committing suicide. This is compared to the national average of 14.2, which means that a person working in construction is 3.5 times more likely to take their own life. For the first time ever, we even have data breaking down this number into trades with roles like ironworkers having a 79 rate, carpenters at 54.7, and construction managers at 45.7.
Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry
That’s why in 2020, a group of steadfast volunteers banded together to launch the first-ever Suicide Prevention Week specific to the construction industry. Taking place this year from September 5 – 9, Construction Suicide Prevention Week is dedicated to increasing education, awareness, and prevention of this unfortunately high number in our industry. This mission was not taken lightly and in 2021, more than 68,000 workers from over 30 states participated in Construction Suicide Prevention Week.
Why the Prevalence of Suicide in the Construction Industry
To understand why suicide is so prevalent in the construction business, we must first look at suicide statistics in the United States as a whole. Suicide rates in the country have increased 35% since 1999. While more women attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide and account for 79% of suicide deaths. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for males in the age range between 25 and 54, which is the exact population predominately working in construction.
Comorbidities & Causes
When you pair this with unaddressed mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, and a slew of other occupational factors, we see just how vulnerable this population is when it comes to suicide. Although mental health and employee well-being have become more important in today’s climate and workforce, the shattering of the stigma is just beginning.
While one in five workers will receive a mental health diagnosis, less than 50% of those people seek support. In the 2020 Morneau Shepell Mental Health Index report, findings showed that mental health, in general, has been significantly worse in the United States, especially throughout the pandemic. The construction industry was ranked the 7th worst mental health score among 22 industries. Underlying risk factors such as crippling stress, anxiety, and undiagnosed mental illness like depression, play huge roles as comorbidities with suicide.
Drug & Alcohol Use in Construction
When we discuss suicide rates in construction, we must also address the higher prevalence of drug and alcohol dependency among workers in the industry. Sadly, the industry holds the second-highest position for another detrimental ranking and that is the rate of heavy/binge drinking. The National Safety Council discovered that approximately 19% of workers in the industry have substance use disorders, which is more than double the national average. This also leaves workers affected by the opioid crisis as many use opiates as a pain management tool. However, opioid abuse increases the likelihood of a suicide attempt by 75%, only furthering the susceptibility and chances of suicide.
Other factors to consider are that veterans, who are already at a 1.5 times greater risk for suicide as opposed to non-veterans, make up about 7% of the industry’s workers. High-stress levels, the transient nature of the job, and the often long hours away from home and family are huge components when it comes to why suicide rates are so much higher in construction.
Suicide Prevention Resources
The creation of Construction Suicide Prevention Week sparked an urgency to focus on education and awareness around the unfortunate disparity in numbers when it comes to suicide rates in the industry. It also implemented a quickly growing network of industry professionals and companies wanting to become more involved in the movement to lower these alarming rates.
The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention has a vetted list of resources and toolkits devoted to this topic. We also love this comprehensive suicide prevention resource list from CPWR, which features valuable information and communications for workers and business owners alike. In addition to these great efforts, Working Minds has also put together a great guide for resources to help prevent suicide in construction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideations, contact a hotline or mental health professional immediately. Use the Lifeline Crisis Chat online or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting “HELLO” to 741741 to talk to a crisis counselor.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is a free and confidential resource in the U.S. that connects people with trained counselors. Call 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach the Lifeline 24/7.