Construction Companies Counting on Cards to Open Conversation

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Job site stand-downs scheduled during National Suicide Prevention Week Sept. 5-11

Talk to any safety director from a construction company and he or she will tell you that one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is suicide prevention and awareness.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in 2018 there were 1,008 construction fatalities but 5,242 suicides by construction workers that year, equating to a rate of 45.3 per 100,000. This compares with an average male suicide rate of 27.4 per 100,000.  The CDC also reports that construction is the second highest profession for suicides, second only to fishing/farming/forestry.

Already known as a “tough guy” occupation, construction brings with it the added stress of tight deadlines, overtime, physical trials, requirements to often travel or work outside in inclement weather, and proximity to dangerous tools and heavy equipment. The problem has only been exacerbated in the last 18 months by isolation, masking, social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions.

            The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Missourihas made suicide prevention and awareness a top priority for the past several years, creating a special task force to tackle the problem.  In 2019, AGCMO partnered with Washington University in St. Louis to develop a series of toolbox talks on the topic. Part of AGCMO’s Pledge of HOPE campaign to help raise awareness for suicide and mental health in construction, materials also include job site/workplace posters, hard hat stickers and HOPE (Hold on Pain Ends) challenge coins  to be shared with fellow workers. (Pledge of HOPE campaign: https://biturl.top/zEJv2i)

             According to Brandon Anderson, AGCMO vice president, safety, the association has added another innovative arrow to its quiver for its 2021 Pledge of HOPE campaign – Let’s Talk Mental Health – a deck of 52 cards dealing with various topics such as depression, anxiety, alcohol and opioid abuse, fatigue, bullying, racism, etc.

            “It’s a non-confrontational way to the start the conversation and break stigma,” said Anderson.  “Our hope is that by pulling out a card and sharing or asking the question on the card; that it takes some of the pressure off the individuals ( both employee and employer) to start the conversation on mental health. Our most important message is that of HOPE and ‘you are not alone’ and that there are resources available for everyone.  Our materials all carry the suicide hotline, 1-800-273-8255; Text: 741741; and Website: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org  A QR code also leads to all resources.

With National Suicide Prevention Week scheduled Sept. 5-11, construction companies around the state are planning job site stand-downs when work will stop and workers will gather to focus on mental wellness for their co-workers and themselves.  Among others, large stand -downs are scheduled on Wed., Sept. 8:   10 a.m. at the new MLS stadium job site in downtown St. Louis and 7 a.m. at the NEXTGEN project at the University of Missouri-Columbia job site in Columba, MO.  For more information on planned stand-downs, to request materials, or to come alongside AGCMO and help lead the way and make a difference through the AGCMO’s Pledge of HOPE campaign, contact Brandon Anderson at banderson@agcmo.org.

“Our goal is to let construction workers know it’s ok to talk about mental health and through our Pledge of HOPE campaign our mission is to have one person on every jobsite certified in mental health first aid. “This problem won’t be solved overnight, but creating a “welcoming’ environment for discussion and awareness is a great starting point.” added Anderson.

The Associated General Contractors of Missouri is the leading voice of the construction industry in Missouri, representing over 500 commercial, industrial, heavy and highway contractors, industry partners and related firms in 110 counties throughout Missouri. In 2020, Missouri’s chapter was named AGC of America Large Chapter of the Year.

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