Suicide the second leading cause of death in the construction industry

The construction industry is starting to look at a hidden problem with deadly consequences.

Donna Grant, a marketing manager at Scott Construction, addressed the issue of suicide for attendees of the British Columbia Construction Safety Alliance’s (BCCSA) Bridging the Gap safety conference on Oct. 26 in Vancouver. Grant said suicide is the second leading cause of death in the construction industry in men aged 25 to 59, and the highest rates are men from 40 to 59.

“But the good news is that everyone in this room is in a position to change that,” Grant said.

She emphasized that suicide is preventable and despite social stigma “it’s OK to talk about suicide. Asking doesn’t provoke the act, it can in fact reduce anxiety and help people feel understood.

“If you reach out to someone with suicidal thoughts, you may be their one lifeline,” Grant said.

The nature of the construction industry at present also contributes to a culture that is uncomfortable with dealing with suicide and other mental illness issues, Grant said.

“The work can be feast or famine. You can be working crazy long hours and then suddenly be out of work, so there’s a high stress factor to that,” she said.Scott Construction

Demographics also play a role. Construction is still male-dominated, Grant said, and “men don’t tend to seek out help as readily as women might.”  

“There’s a perception of if you show how you really feel, you might be seen as weak by your co-workers,” she added.

One of the leading indicators someone is contemplating suicide is if they joke about the matter, Grant said, especially if under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“The statistics go through the roof if there’s substance abuse involved. It’s a whole new ball game,” she said. “Those things can go hand in hand, substance abuse and suicide. If that’s part of the equation, you really have to look at the situation with a sense of urgency.”

Other signs to look for include ideation, which is the occurrence of suicidal thoughts, as well as substance abuse and a feeling of being trapped. Those contemplating suicide often also feel hopeless or helpless.

“They feel there’s nothing to do to change the pain they’re feeling and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” Grant said.

Withdrawal from social interaction, anger, engaging in risky behaviour and sudden mood changes are also indicators.

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