The suicide rate among construction workers, 53.3 per 100,000 workers, is second only to that among forestry, fishing, and farming employees, 84.5 per 100,000, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Construction Financial Management Association, representing some 7,500 accountants, controllers, chief financial officers, and human-resources professionals, is promoting mental-health services and encouraging construction companies to create cultures of care. It recently launched the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention on the belief that employees are one of the most valuable resources a company has.
The program's goal is to "shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness," which is common in the construction industry. A tough-guy stoicism makes it hard for some workers to seek help. Employee assistance programs are often included in health-care packages, but employees don't use them very often and may not know they are there.
"Contracting companies haven’t done a great job promoting those services,” said Cal Beyer, director of risk management at Lakeside Industries, an asphalt paving company in Issaquah, Wash.
Among factors challenging a worker's mental stability are a competitive, high-pressure environment, a relatively high presence of alcohol and drug abuse, furloughs and end-of-season layoffs, and separation from family.