Mental Health and Suicide Awareness:
The Construction Safety Topics We Can’t Ignore

Content Warning: This post discusses difficult topics related to mental health and suicide – and may be upsetting to some; if you or someone you know is struggling, please speak up and use these free and confidential resources:


Suicide rates within the working population of the United States have increased by 40% in the last twenty years, and construction workers are among the highest at risk. The CDC reports that of all industries and occupations, 20% of all suicides are by people working in the construction industry.

Many factors contribute to suicide, and the early warning signs are easy to miss. But being aware of the risks and openly discussing this complicated subject may be the first step toward reversing this deadly trend.


Middle-class white males are at the highest risk for suicide, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 58.7% of construction workers fit that demographic.

And although women only represent 10% of the population in construction work, their risk of suicide is also growing.

The CDC reports that women are more likely to attempt suicide but that men are more likely to succeed.

However, the CDC also warns that this pattern may shift because more women are choosing lethal means of suicide, which is a great cause for concern.



Socioeconomic factors

The socioeconomic environment can also contribute to suicide, as do the mental and physical stressors related to working in the construction industry.

For example, tight deadlines, long hours, manual physical labor, frequent unemployment, and extended travel from one job site to the next create tension and stress within families.

Additionally, sixty percent of all construction workers have little formal education or training, which limits their upward mobility.

For instance, the front-line workers of our industry, such as laborers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians, typically have a high school diploma or less which can limit their opportunities for advancement and that is yet another risk factor for suicide.

And although the industry is making progress toward a more diverse and inclusive workforce, we can’t ignore that disparity still exists. Many minorities and underserved populations face discrimination and isolation in the industry and on construction sites, leading to emotional distress.



Cultural Barriers

As a predominately male occupation, the construction industry is well known for its macho, ‘get-it-done-at-all-costs’ and self-reliant attitudes.

Unfortunately, this ‘hard’ exterior prevents people from discussing their struggles or asking for help when needed.

Many turn to opioids and alcohol to cope. But the added stress of these substances can cause sleep disruption, uncontrolled anger, depression, and distraction, all of which create more problems at home and put others at risk for injury on the job site.


  • Talking about suicide
  • Self-loathing, self-hatred
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Self-destructive
  • Hopeless
  • Decreased productivity
  • Talking about being a burden
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased tardiness
  • Absenteeism


  • Don’t ignore it – speak up if you’re worried or see the signs
  • Show your concern; if you’ve noticed someone acting differently, talk to them—find out why they don’t seem like themselves
  • Respond quickly if you feel a friend or coworker is in crisis
  • Offer help and support
  • Contact the suicide prevention hotline or crisis text line

Individually these symptoms may not be a warning sign of imminent suicide. Still, a combination of these signals or significant changes in a co-worker’s behavior can cause concern.

Think about major changes in how a person is talking, behaving, and acting—as this serves as an opportunity to reach out and make yourself available to those that you may be concerned about.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention has abundant resources for free download and distribution to help.


If you or someone you know is struggling, please speak up or use these free and confidential resources:


Until next time…Work Safe & Be Safe!

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