By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
More than 400 PARIC employees, subcontractors and members of the Associated General Contractors of Missouri gathered at Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis on Sept. 10 to learn the warning signs of suicide. The event was held in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Month.
AGC Health and Safety Committee Chairman Shannon Niles, safety director at PARIC, said the show of hands indicating those who’ve been personally affected by suicide was revealing.
“It was astounding,” Niles said. “I asked for individuals who have experienced losing a loved one to suicide to raise their hand, and more than 60 percent of hands went up. This is an epidemic, and while it’s certainly not specific to the construction industry, the very nature of the demands in our profession definitely play a factor in what we’re seeing.”
A vivid, tragic example of this occurred recently when a young carpenter – not a PARIC employee or sub — gave coworkers his tools before jumping to his death at a construction site. He was married with young children.
“Large construction jobs often require that individuals spend several months or even more than a year away from home and away from their families and support systems,” Niles said. “That can put a lot of stress on construction workers.”
Other major factors such as opioid abuse and depression stemming from being out of work or limited due to injury can also weigh heavily on anyone’s ability to function well, particularly in jobs such as construction that demand physical stamina and are comparatively higher risk.
“Being away from your family for an extended period of time or being injured can sometimes cause an individual to spiral downward in terms of mental health,” Niles said. “It’s up to each one of us, whether we’re on the job or at home, to be aware of signs that may indicate that our loved one needs help.”
Statistics compiled by the AGCMO’s Health and Safety Committee reveal that:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- The construction industry has the 2nd-highest rate of suicides among all occupations, 4 times higher than in the general population.
- Males account for nearly 4 out of 5 suicide deaths.
- Missouri is ranked 13th highest in suicides.
Warning signs to watch for include:
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Sudden mood changes
- Talking about suicide
- Anxiety or agitation
- Aggressive behavior or uncontrolled anger
- Reckless behavior
- Changes in habits
- Seeking access to the means needed to take one’s life
- Giving away possessions
- Saying goodbye
For detailed information on how to detect and intervene to prevent a suicide among those with whom you live and work, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or text HELLO to 741741 via the organization’s Crisis Text Line.