Construction workers commit suicide at three times the national average. Within the construction industry, already the most dangerous profession, more workers die from suicide than job injuries and accidents. Construction has the second-highest suicide rate of any sector in the United States.
Several risk factors lend to this startling reality. First, males dominate the profession; men commit suicide more often than women. Second, more gun owners and veterans work in construction; suicide occurs more frequently among gun owners and veterans. Third, chronic pain from working on the job site leads to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol; this contributes to suicide. In addition, a “too tough to talk” attitude persists in construction.
This data and more comes from the Construction Suicide Prevention Partnership, run by Lines for Life, a non-profit organization.
The Construction Suicide Prevention Partnership holds supervisor and manager training; the group teaches how to discern employee warning signs. They call their program QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer). The group compares QPR to CPR, a lifesaving emergency intervention where trained employees respond to the mental health of those around them.
“I would advise everybody to get QPR training, and I kind of hope that it’s going to wash across the nation,” said Laborers Local 737 recording secretary Jodi Guetzloe-Parker, who took the training. Guetzloe-Parker said the suicide of someone she knew, a well-liked member of Iron Workers Local 29, triggered her interest in suicide prevention. “It was just like a punch to the gut.”
September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. If you or anyone you know struggles with depression or thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.