In 2020, the United States’ average suicide rate was 13.48 per 100,000 people (45,979 suicide deaths) and Canada’s average suicide rate was 10.1 per 100,000 people (3,839 suicide deaths). The good news is these numbers were down slightly from the previous two years. The bad news is we still have a long way to go and you are in one of the industries most affected by suicide.
The construction industry has the second highest suicide rate per industry. The suicide rate of our industry is 45.3 per 100,000, which is four times the rate of the general population. However, with the total number of individuals in construction, our industry has more suicide deaths than any other industry.
What contributes to this high rate of suicide in our industry?
- Our industry is customer driven, which means overnight travel, shift work, weekend work and long hours are often required. These factors all impact personal relationships, normal sleep and diet. They also affect the ability to maintain normal external support systems.
- Seasonal work and project-specific employment can create financial insecurity and personal uncertainty.
- Long-term, repetitive physical work can result in chronic pain, which can lead to the regular use of prescription medications and self-medication. This can lead to an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.
- A general acceptance has developed in our industry of the regular use of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Use of a firearm is a common means of suicide (research suggests individuals are less likely to survive a suicide attempt when using a firearm), and many in our industry own firearms because they enjoy hunting and shooting.
- An “old school, tough guy” persona is prevalent in our male-dominated industry. Due to this persona, employees are less likely to show any vulnerability or seek help.
It is essential for each of us to achieve a reasonable life balance of a healthy diet, adequate sleep, regular exercise and stable personal relationships. For a person living with a mental illness, a reasonable life balance is critical in preventing the onset of a mental crisis.
While some progress has been made in increasing mental health and suicide prevention awareness in the construction industry, we still have a ways to go. As an employer in the construction industry, it’s important for you to understand some of the factors that lead to our high suicide rate, so you can have a better chance of spotting the warning signs and potentially saving the life of an employee or loved one.
Remember: mental illnesses are treatable and suicide is preventable.