While on a Lean Construction zoom call this week, the presenter said “I’m not sure why we construction folks think we have to be tough and strong all the time.” I almost dropped my coffee in my lap. He was absolutely right, and I thought “Why do we do that?” Thinking about my own many years on jobsites, the typical protocol is just work, don’t complain, tow the company line, suck it up, and get the job done. Maybe it’s how we were raised, or maybe it is the way we try to fit into the male-dominated industry. ”There’s no crying in construction” has been the mantra.
But there is. There are so many reasons for crying, whether openly or on the inside. Stress, anger, fear, disappointment, crushing agony while you watch someone else get the opportunity you’ve been killing yourself for - these are all emotions both men and women feel on a daily basis on job sites. Whether we admit it or not. And especially now, in 2020, those “normal” emotions are now on overdrive when added to the stress from the global pandemic, the current civil rights movement, and the ever growing economic crisis for all.
For many, it’s simply too much. According to The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP), the suicide rate in construction is nearly 4 times greater than the national average, and 5 times greater than that of all other construction fatalities combined. All levels of the workforce are at increased risk of suicide – from field workers to skilled trades to project leaders. (For more info and some great resources, or to sign up to take the free training from Livingworks available in September, visit www.preventcontructionsuicide.org.) And as discussed at the past two construction conferences I virtually attended, mental health awareness is needed now more than ever.
Have you felt overwhelmed and hopeless, thinking it would just be easier if you weren’t here or just wishing it would all stop? If so, know you are are not alone. There are kind and understanding people that want to help. We don’t have to do this all on our own. Currently having urgent negative thoughts? For free, confidential help 24/7, text HELLO to 741741 or call 800-273-TALK (8255) for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
How can you support your construction family if you’ve never experienced mental health issues or had thoughts of suicide? Help normalize mental health discussions by making suicide awareness next week’s tool box talk and add an agenda item to your next project staff meeting. Don’t make jokes, get educated (take the free course!), and join the movement. You never know who you will be helping.