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  • Arizona Contractor & Community

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS MONTH: Why Do Construction Workers Have Higher Suicide Rates?

The construction industry knows it has a problem. Working in the building and construction trades has become the US’s deadliest occupation. But it isn’t cranes or ladders nor bad backs or broken bones that get construction workers to sign off. They are more likely to die by their own hands rather than be killed in an on-the-job accident. With 53.2 suicides per 100 thousand workers, construction has among the greatest suicide rate of any industry, according to Centers for Disease Control. This suicide rate is over four times higher than the national suicide average and five times higher than all construction deaths combined.

The construction industry as a whole needs to improve mental health awareness and assistance, but this can only be done on one jobsite at a time. September is the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month- a time to exchange information and resources and reach out to those affected by suicide.

Workwear Guru joins the call to raise awareness and spread hope to prevent suicides. We did this by interviewing several mental health experts, statisticians and health & safety professionals who deem suicide prevention a sine qua non in the employee health and wellness efforts. The aim of our study is to educate and encourage all stakeholders to use all the resources available, familiarize themselves with the problem and better implement suicide prevention strategies

Factors that Lead to Higher Risks for Suicide

Construction is one of the industries with the highest work-related fatalities due to safety risks in the workplace. However, suicide (and mental health problems) comes after that, affecting thousands of construction workers every year.

According to Kirk Bol, a vital statistician at Colorado Center for Health and Environmental Data, male suicide decedents within the industry were less likely to be diagnosed and treated for mental health problems. The lack of treatment for mental health issues minimizes the chance to prevent suicide among the workers.

According to experts, a high work-pressure environment, work at remote locations, tough guy mentality, and opioids dependency are the main factors putting construction workers at risk for suicide.

A high work-pressure environment

Mental health issues arise as the construction industry operates on strict deadlines. Such a schedule can put pressure on the workers. When workers don’t meet the deadline, they can be subject to fines.

Besides, construction is a high-stress environment with complications of different nature happening every day. When you add together the pressure from the management and the workplace complications, you find construction workers jeopardizing their health and working longer hours to conform to deadlines, budget, and quality expectations.

Work-related stress is not an isolated event. Instead, it built over time, placing the construction workers at risk of mental health problems that lead to suicide.

All these factors can build up contributing to mental health problems. If they are left undiagnosed, it increases their chances of suicide.

Work at remote locations

Construction often requires work in remote locations. The transfer to distant locations means living in hotels, which can be a lonely experience.

This means, atop a high-pressure environment where they work, workers spend the rest of the days away from family and friends, distancing them from their main support system. The separation from the family creates the space for the family to move without you, leading to marriage and parenting problems, said Spencer-Thomas.

“Mental health or substance abuse challenges may be more likely to go unnoticed or unaddressed in situations like this,” added McGough Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist at BASE Cognitive Behavioral.

The “tough-guy” mentality

As construction is a male-dominated industry with workers mainly from low educational backgrounds, masculinity prevents them from acknowledging their mental health problems. As the “tough guy” taboo prevails in their work environment, openness is not appreciated, and “many in the field may be afraid of appearing ‘weak’ if they acknowledge a struggle,” says McGough. Moreover, the stoicism and fearlessness they show can lead to impulsive risk-taking and destructive behaviors, says Spencer-Thomas.


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