- What is your personal story and how did you get involved in suicide prevention efforts?
I’ve worked in construction my whole life – starting as a teen with my dad on custom homes he built, and since 1998 with SSC Underground. I love the industry and the people in the industry. In 2015 when I was a board member of the Valley of the Sun Chapter of the Construction Financial Management Association and it was brought to our attention that construction workers were at increased risk of dying by suicide, I had to get involved. That lead to helping to organize the first of it’s kind Suicide Prevention Summit in 2016 and eventually to helping to form and lead the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
- What industries are ranked highest in suicides by career and why?
Construction & extraction (mining) are ranked highest, with Installation, Maintenance & Repair ranked 3rd, Transportation & Material Moving ranked 4th and Architecture & Engineering ranked 10th – these last 3 categories are all involved in the construction industry, and all share a common risk factor of predominantly male work force (men have a much higher suicide rate than women). When you look specifically at construction which is at the highest risk, other factors include a perceived expectation of a stoic/tough persona who resists asking for help, high risk/stress/pressure situations, higher rates of workplace injuries or just general physical wear that can lead to opioid addiction/self-medication. These are just a few of the factors that we’ve identified that put construction workers at a 4x greater risk of dying by suicide than the general population. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6745a1.htm?s_cid=mm6745a1_w
- What do you recommend businesses do in the workplace to support mental health and suicide prevention among employees?
Talk about it! It starts with normalizing the conversation around mental health & suicide – getting people comfortable with even bringing the topics up. Educate employees on what to look for in themselves and in others, and where to access help if they need it. Create a culture where people know that they are cared about and that they won’t be stigmatized if they are experiencing a mental health condition or struggling with suicidal thoughts. We put so much focus on employee wellness these days, we need to be sure we are including the whole employee – head down! Some great resources can be found at https://preventconstructionsuicide.com/ and https://workplacesuicideprevention.com/
- What are the warning signs of suicide?
Most center around changes in behaviors – which is why creating a culture where co-workers know each other and are empowered to help each other is critical. Workplace issues like suddenly being late or absent excessively, not being able to solve problems, increased conflict/anger are all signs. In general, withdrawing from social groups/activities, talking about wanting to die/being a burden, increased drug/alcohol use are all signs to watch for.
- What should I do if I am in crisis or someone I know is considering suicide?
If you are worried about someone, ask if they are ok! Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are considering suicide – it is much better to ask than not! If you need help for yourself or someone else, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line 741741