SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN SUICIDE BY CONSTRUCTION WORKERS

September is Suicide Prevention Month.

Suicide among the U.S. working-age population (ages 16-64 years) is increasing; in 2017, nearly 38,000 persons died by suicide.

The construction industry has one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries. In 2016, the suicide rate for men in construction and extraction occupations was 49.4 per 100,000 workers.  That is 5 times greater than the rate for all fatal work-related injuries in the construction industry in 2018 (9.5 per 100,000 workers).

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analyzed suicide data by industry and occupation.  Suicide rates were significantly higher in the following major industry groups:

  1. Construction and Extraction (males and females)
  2. Installation, Maintenance and Repair (males)
  3. Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports and Media (males)

The known contributing factors1 for suicide in construction are:

  1. “Tough Guy” culture of fearlessness, stoicism and recklessness
  2. High pressure environment of schedule, budget and quality performance with potential for failure and resulting shame/humiliation
  3. Exposure to physical strain or psychological trauma
  4. Prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse
  5. Reassignment and travel to remote projects creating separation from family and friends
  6. Seasonal employment leading to a fragmented community and isolation
  7. Chronic pain from years of hard, physical and manual labor
  8. Industry with the associated highest incidence of prescription opioid use
  9. Stigma of mental illness
  10. Access to lethal means like pills and firearms

According to mental health professionals, the following are common warning signs that a person may be thinking about suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

If you notice the warning signs of suicide in someone you know talk to them. Ask them about a specific warning sign you noticed.  You may feel uncomfortable, but the best way to find out if someone is having suicidal thoughts is to ask them directly. Asking this will not put the idea into their head or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.

If the answer is “yes”, do not leave them alone and get them help.

Encourage the person to see a mental health professional. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for advice and referrals.

CPWR — The Center for Construction Research and Training has created a website with several new printable resources to help organizations and individuals understand the issue of suicide. For more information click here.

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, contact

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Provides free and confidential support from trained counselors 24/7.

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

1CONSTRUCTION + SUICIDE PREVENTION: WHY IS THIS AN INDUSTRY IMPERATIVE?; Construction Financial Management Association

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