VIDEO: Construction workers share their struggles with mental health to help combat suicide
By Jenny LescohierDecember 14, 2022
A new series of video public service ads aims to combat the construction industry’s high suicide rates and help professionals with mental health issues.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) released the videos which feature real industry professionals who have suffered with mental health issues while trying to maintain normal day-to-day life and work.
“The people in these videos were courageous enough to share their stories because they want other workers to understand that it is okay to ask for help,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The hope is that these videos will serve as a catalyst for encouraging people to seek support when they need it.”
The videos share all sides of these struggles, including those personally battling addiction and mental illness, those concerned for a co-worker who they believe might be dealing with these issues, and what strong leadership and supporting staff can do to help people feel comfortable enough to seek support when they need it.
The association is encouraging its members and chapters to share these videos with workers to let them know it’s okay to speak up about mental health challenges.
Sandherr noted the videos are part of a broader effort by the association to address high suicide rates within the construction industry. He noted a construction worker is five times as likely to die by suicide than workplace safety hazards, and the association is working to substantially reduce that number.
Does construction have the highest suicide rate?
In late 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) MMWR found that 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use and that 11% of U.S. adults seriously considered suicide.
In the U.S., you are more likely to die from suicide than an automobile accident or by homicide. We lose 47,500 people per year to suicide, 38,800 to automobile accidents, and 19,141 to homicide. This means you are 2.5 times more likely to die by your own hand than the hands of others.
More specifically, the construction industry has the highest rate of suicide at 53.2 per 100,000 U.S. workers. That rate is four times greater than the national average and five times greater than that of all other construction fatalities combined.
“We cannot stand by while a silent epidemic of suicide takes place within our industry,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC of America’s chief executive officer. “We want to reduce the stigma of mental health issues in this industry, let people know it is okay to ask for help and, ultimately, save lives.”
Resources help prevent suicide in construction
In addition to the videos, AGC has launched a quarterly forum to share examples of successful mental health and suicide prevention efforts. The association has a comprehensive collection of resources available online and free of charge to all construction companies and their workers.
The new effort is being coordinated by the association’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Task Force, which is comprised of construction professionals from across the country.
“Protecting workers is about much more than making sure they wear the right safety gear, it is about making sure they know it’s okay to speak up when they are suffering from pain, addiction or mental health challenges,” Sandherr noted.