Oct 10, 2021

It’s time to talk about mental health and suicide

Samaritans
mentalhealth
construction
suicide
3 min
The construction industry has one of the highest suicide rates of any. It’s time we talked about it and it’s time this changed because it’s important

Working in the building and construction industry is extremely demanding. There are huge expectations on the workers in order to fulfill deadlines, as well as working circumstances that may be dangerous if safety rules are not followed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that male workers that work in construction have a 65% higher rate than all U.S male workers. According to the same report, there are various work-related risk factors that are taking their toll on the construction workers in the worst way imaginable.

While further study is required to understand these work-related factors, CDC indicates that suicide risk is related to the following:

  • low skilled labor
  • lower education
  • relative low
  • socioeconomic status
  • access to lethal means
  • job stress
  • poor supervision and colleague support
  • low job control
  • job insecurity

 The report shows that construction workers working in the physical position in construction are at higher risk for suicide. Research studies, as well as experts working with mental health in construction industries, show that these factors are the main cause of mental health problems that lead to suicide for construction workers.

Factors that lead to higher risks of 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 minimises the chance to prevent suicide among the workers.

According to experts, a high work-pressure environment, working 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

The construction industry operating on strict deadlines is one of the many causes of mental health issues in the industry. Such a schedule can put pressure on the workers, and when workers don’t meet the deadline, they can be subject to fines. 

Whatsmore, construction is a high-stress environment with complications of different natures occuring every day. When you add together the pressure from the management and the workplace complications, you find construction workers jeopardising their health and working longer hours just to meet deadlines, budgets, and quality expectations.

Work-related stress is not an isolated event, but rather an ongoing one, building up over time, and 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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