Construction Industry Faces Suicide Crisis

With deaths rising, industry is stepping up outreach efforts
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2024 3:30 PM CDT
Construction Industry Fights Suicide Crisis
"Construction workers think they’re so big and bad, that they don’t ever need any help. But we’ve got to realize we’re all human beings, and we all need help at some point,” says Shannon Niles at construction firm Paric Corp.   (Getty Images/howtogoto)

The figures on suicide in the construction industry are stark: According to the most recent data available, around 6,000 construction workers in the US died by suicide in 2022, an increase from 2021, NBC News reports. That's six times the number of deaths in the industry from workplace accidents. The industry is booming, with a surge in huge projects including semiconductor factories, but construction companies and industry associations say a shortage of workers has added to the pressures, with many people working long days and living in temporary accommodation far from their families.

According to a CDC report last year, the suicide rate among men in the construction industry was 75% higher than men in general and higher than in any other industry except mining, at 56 per 100,000. The figure for women was 10.4 per 100,000. "When you're more likely to be killed by your own hands than to get killed in a jobsite accident, that's a crisis in our industry," Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and workforce for the Associated General Contractors of America, tells NBC. "We know pretty much what needs to happen to protect people physically. We're figuring out how to protect people mentally."

Suicide prevention efforts are focusing in reducing the stigma in the industry around asking for help. Earlier this year, Bechtel, the nation's second-largest construction company, announced a partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The effort aims to reach 500,000 construction workers with messages on how to help struggling colleagues. "One of the things that we know from other fields," AFSP chief executive Robert Gebbia told Construction Briefing, "is that peers know when something is going on with somebody. They see it. They can see when someone is not being themselves or becoming withdrawn." (If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.)

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