The problem of suicide amongst construction workers is intensified by the prevalence of stress and anxiety amongst these workers which is reported to be higher than it is for workers in any other sector.
According to research by the Building Employees Redundancy Trust, a significantly elevated rate of suicide is prevalent in the Queensland construction industry.
According to a recent report construction workers are at least 6 times more likely to commit suicide than they are to die from a work related accident – shocking! We place so much emphasis on managing hazards and encouraging worksite health and safety but most employers are ignoring an even bigger threat, the mental health of workers.
Young workers in the construction industry are particularly vulnerable because as research indicated workers between the ages of 15-24 are almost twice as more likely to be commit suicide that all other age groups of men.
This is probably because of the stress and pressure of life on a construction site which perhaps young workers are not mentally developed enough to deal with.
The report also discovered that one in every twenty construction workers would probably contemplate suicide each year.
Some of the reasons for high suicide rates amongst the construction industry as suggested by the organisation are:
The hazardous nature of construction work – it can be extremely stressful to have to constantly be engaged in high risk activities, especially as a young worker. It can feel overwhelming to become accustomed to the construction environment, especially for workers coming straight out of a school environment.
Another issue that may contribute to the stress of working in construction is long, physically demanding hours of work and the pressure of having to complete projects on deadlines. Also the transient and insecure nature of employment can be very stressful for workers in the construction industry because they do not enjoy the same job security as workers in other industries do.
But work isn’t the only factor contributing to suicidal tendencies in construction workers, personal or lifestyle factors can also play a part in a person’s mental state. According to the report factors such as relationship problems, alcohol or substance abuse or financial distress can also weigh on a person’s emotions and result in depression and suicide.
One of the initiatives that have been implemented is the “Mates in Construction” program. The program is an initiative of BERT and other key players in the Queensland construction industry and is based on best practice principles and expert advice relating to suicide prevention.
The Mates in Construction Program attempts to teach workers to recognise and identify early warning signs of suicidal tendencies in their co-workers because it is thought that many people who commit suicide show signs before doing so. Co-workers of these suicidal employees are taught to provide them with appropriate support and perhaps help save a life.
This video explains further: