New initiative seeks to tackle the mental health crisis in the construction industry

Steven Loeb · September 16, 2022 · Short URL:

Construction has the second highest suicide rate of any industry

When you think of the industries with the highest suicide rates, it's like that construction wouldn't top the list, but the number is shockingly high: according to the CDC, in 2016, the suicide rate for men in construction and extraction occupations was almost twice the total suicide rate for civilian working men. In 2018, it was five times greater than the rate for all fatal work-related injuries in the construction industry.

The only industry that has a higher rate of suicides is mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction. In fact, the problem is so bad that U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration formed a task force in 2021 just to raise awareness of the types of stress that can push construction workers into depression and toward suicide. 

Now, the Associated General Contractors of America is trying to help, announcing this week that it launched a new effort to combat what Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer called, "a silent epidemic of suicide" in the industry.

“We want to reduce the stigma of mental health issues in this industry, let people know it is okay to ask for help and, ultimately, save lives,” he said in a statement. 

The new initiative will include a series of video public service announcements, set to be released starting in the coming months, from construction workers who almost succumbed to their own mental health challenges; these workers will urge other members of the construction industry to seek help. 

On top of that, the association is also setting up what will be a quarterly forum, where it will share examples of successful mental health and suicide prevention efforts, while also providing a collection of resources for construction companies and their workers about mental health and suicide prevention. Those resources will be available online, free of charge, to all construction firms. 

The new effort is being coordinated by the association’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Task Force.

“The bottom line is safety isn’t just about wearing the right protective equipment. It is about understanding you are not alone and that it is okay to ask for help,” said Sandherr. 

(Vator will be holding its Future of Behavioral and Mental Health event in October with speakers that include Russ Glass from Headspace Health; Steve Gatena from; Ben Lewis from Limbix; Rebecca Egger from Little Otter; Divya Shah from Meta, and others. Register here to buy your ticket)

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