EVERYONE IS VULNERABLE
AWARENESS IS THE ANSWER
Everyone struggles. This life we all share is a series of hurdles we scale to the best of our ability each day. Sometimes we become overwhelmed and fear grips our soul. That’s when we need help.
A Lot Of Construction “Tough Guys” Don’t Talk About Personal Problems
In 2016, 5,229 construction workers committed suicide. That same year, 44, 965 Americans threw in the towel. They all needed help. There was no one there at exactly the right moment. We look away from suicide. It’s too painful. But by denying that everyone is vulnerable, we’re often not available when we are needed.
Kevin Sells of United Group Services speaks for and to the entire construction industry when he says, “We are four times more likely to experience a suicide death than any other industry…Learn the signs, call for help, and never, never leave anyone at risk alone.” (Quote from United Group Services Suicide Prevention You Tube Video)
Suicide in The Closet
In an article written for the American Psychological Association, Kirsten Weir says, “People who are struggling often fail to receive interventions that could save their lives. There is a lack of accessible, affordable, effective mental health care. And the health-care system hasn’t been designed with suicide risk in mind.”
Everyone is Vulnerable
In 2018, there were 48,344 recorded suicides, up from 42,773 in 2014, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). On average, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 33% between 1999 and 2017, the highest rate recorded in 28 years.
Risk factors include health factors (such as depression, substance use problems, serious mental illness and serious physical health conditions including pain), environmental factors (such as access to lethal means and stressful life events including divorce, unemployment, relationship problems or financial crisis) and historical factors (including previous suicide attempts, a family history of suicide, and a history of childhood abuse or trauma).
Princeton University economists Anne Case, PhD, and Angus Deaton, PhD, have shown that deaths from suicide, drugs and alcohol have risen steeply among white, middle-aged Americans since 2000 (PNAS, Vol. 112, No. 49, 2015). They argue these “deaths of despair” are linked to a deterioration of economic and social well-being among the white working class (Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Spring 2017).
How We All Can Help
Countries that have seen suicide rates fall have made suicide prevention a mission through efforts such as:
- Implementing workplace suicide prevention programs that train supervisors to identify and help those at risk.
- Coordinating suicide prevention across healthcare, social, education and employment services.
- Improving access to mental health treatment.
- Investing in community interventions.
The Construction Industry’s Response
The United Group Services Suicide Prevention Program is all about making everyone in the construction industry aware that suicide is an ever-present danger that could befall a fellow worker, supervisor, friend, or family member.
Kevin Sells and his team are mobilizing a wide variety of media, digital communication, and person-to-person formats to bring suicide “out of the shadows” and alert every construction industry participant that their coworkers, friends, and family might be struggling.
A Construction Suicide Prevention Program
The United Group Services program is centered around raising awareness and making immediate support available to the vulnerable. Their program teaches how each construction company might take action.
- Assign a Champion to shepherd every facet of your company’s suicide prevention program.
- Make company-wide awareness of the problem your first priority.
- Utilize every available media to get the word out – emails – posters – meetings – mailers.
- Include suicide prevention techniques in your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or your Medical Assistance Program (MAP) and encourage all employees to have the emergency phone numbers at the ready in their cell phone.
- Include mental health benefits in your group medical plan.
- Investigate local resources like community centers and places of worship that participate in suicide prevention programs and make them known to all employees.
- Design and institute an employee mental health training program.
- Talk about suicide during toolbox talks.
- Produce handouts like flyers, tent cards, credit card “sleeves”, key tags, hard hat stickers with #s for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and company EAP.
- Talk about the risk of suicide in company newsletters.
- Conduct formal suicide prevention trainings.
- Include Mental Health Screenings in your employee wellness program.
- Formulate a formal response plan if a crisis should occur.
Kevin says, “If an employee comes to us and states that they have a drug and alcohol addiction issue, we’re going to get them the care that they need and we’re going to protect their job.”
It’s all about awareness, acceptance, and being in the right place at the right time.