TZL 1390 (web)



Mental health matters

Many firms have been slow to engage in conversations with their employees about mental health. It’s time to make a change.

T he construction industry has the highest suicide rate across all industries. In fact, the suicide rate in construction is about four times greater than the national average, and five times greater than that of all other construction fatalities combined. This sobering information, provided by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, is hard to believe.

Keyan Zandy

But why does construction have the highest suicide rate? Going back to the statistics, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention shares the rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 97 percent of the U.S. construction workforce is male, and 57 percent is Caucasian. Also, more than 63 percent of construction workers are between the ages of 35 and 64. But is there something more at play here than demographics? Could our industry’s culture be contributing to this crisis? I believe that it is. When you think about construction workers in the field, you’re probably not envisioning these as people who easily share their feelings, and there’s a reason for that. The construction industry is traditionally perceived as hypermasculine – tough, manly, competitive. It also consistently ranks at the top of all sectors for heavy alcohol and substance use or abuse. For some, drinking is just part of the culture. I can

personally attest to being invited to the bar after a bad day in the field – or a good day, when there’s something to celebrate. There are also undeniable factors in our industry that can lead to stress, depression, and substance abuse. Long hours are typical. Sleep disruption or deprivation due to shift work (early morning concrete pours, etc.) is common. Being asked to travel can lead to interpersonal stress and loneliness associated with being separated from family, and a sense of isolation from being on the road. Destabilizing events like seasonal layoffs or furloughs, and the constant pressure to make schedule and budget while maintaining high quality can all lead to or exacerbate anxiety or depression. Finally, many workers experience chronic pain due to injury or strain from the hard labor associated with the job.

See KEYAN ZANDY, page 4


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