Suicide in Construction: Let's talk before the holidays
Updated: Mar 17
The holidays are a time for joy, and togetherness - but what if they're not? It may be hard to think about, and even harder to talk about, especially just prior to the holidays - but I want to talk to you about mental health, and more specifically, about suicide risk in construction. And I want to talk about it now for two very important reasons:
1. Suicide is more prevalent in the construction industry, than any other industry in Canada (this is also a global trend).
2. Suicide is more prevalent during the holidays.
These statements may make you uncomfortable, and that's okay... but it's important not to let personal discomfort overshadow and negate things that we know to be true, based on reporting, tracking, trending, and research related to the area. Due to the incredible relevance and importance of these statements, I'm not going to spend a lot of time attempting to 'normalize', because I don't want the following actions to be missed. So if you want to do something to help a peer in the construction industry who may be struggling this holiday season, consider the following:
Stop the stigma surrounding mental health. If you find yourself or someone around you struggling with mental health concerns, know: It's not weird, it doesn't mean you're crazy, it's not just 'who you are', and it's not your 'fault'. If you're courageous enough to speak to your own mental health, in front of others within the construction industry, do it. Normalize the discussion. Let me start: I've had a hell of a year, mentally. I've felt broken, I've felt undervalued, and I've felt very alone... at multiple points throughout the past year. And I say this with a very loving and incredibly understanding support system around me.
Those who aren't this fortunate are likely feeling the weight of their struggles, with no one around to help ease their burden by simply listening, and letting them know they are not alone.
Take 5-minutes EVERY DAY from now until the start of the New Year to reach out to peers, and ask, "How are you doing?" Especially if they might seem a little 'off' or 'distracted'. And if someone hits you with the standard, "I'm fine." Ask again. For example, "Actually, fine? I'm asking because I genuinely want to know. I understand the struggles that are hitting people through the pandemic, and especially around the holidays... so I'm here to listen, if anything doesn't feel 'fine'."
Know the symptoms of depression.
Sad, empty, or hopeless behavior or language.
Displays of anger and irritability over seemingly small matters.
No longer participating in social activities, or engagements.
Fatigue, exhaustion, lack of energy, insomnia, or excessive sleeping.
Trouble concentrating, remembering things, and/or making decisions.
A sudden calmness that comes with talk of, or action toward, putting personal business in order, clearing and cleaning an office, or home, or gifting personal items and belongings.
Making statements about death, or dying.
If you notice someone exhibiting these symptoms, and you aren't comfortable speaking to them, bring it to the attention of your supervisor or someone within your OHS team who might be able to help. At the very least, they should be able to offer access to services and professionals who can help. 'Professional help' might sound intimidating (😬psst... it's the stigma 😮), but consider this: I wouldn't be embarrassed to schedule an appointment with a plumber to discuss an issue with my leaking faucet🛀 - and I'm not embarrassed to schedule an appointment with a therapist to discuss an issue with my overwhelmed brain 💥. Most of us are not professionals in the world of drains, piping, flow rate (or any other plumbing term I can think of!!!), nor are most of us experts in psychology and human behavior.
So here's an idea - lean on someone with the knowledge and expertise to help you through your mental struggles. It just makes sense! I can almost guarantee that most psychologists, in turn, are leaning on a plumber to fix their leaks🛀, on an accountant to manage their finances💰, on a farmer to grow their vegetables🥗, and on a doctor to cast their broken bones👩⚕️.
Take care of yourself over the holiday season this year - and while you're at it, take care of someone who might be struggling. You'll never know, until you ask!
And remember: You are enough, and your wellbeing is worth asking for help! I promise you that.
Canada Suicide Prevention Services - https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/
Canada Suicide Prevention Line: 1-833-456-4566 (available 24/7 for voice calls)
Canada Suicide Prevention Text Line: 45645 (available 4pm to 12am ET for text)
Recognizing Suicidal Behavior - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11352-recognizing-suicidal-behavior