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Construction Suicide Prevention Event Aims to Raise Awareness, Action to Support Workers
September 08, 2023
Employers, labor leaders join state officials to highlight construction suicide prevention week; focus on awareness and prevention of suicide in construction industry, highest among all occupations in Michigan
LANSING, Mich.— As Construction Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 4-8) comes to an end, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA), construction companies and labor leaders hosted an event to raise awareness and combat the rate of construction worker suicide.
The construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicides among all occupations — four times higher than the general population. In Michigan, the construction and extraction occupation suicide rate was 75.4 per 100,000 people in 2019, according to state health statistics.
“With mental health struggles, especially suicides, drastically higher among blue-collar occupations like the construction industry, it’s critical that we protect the hardworking people who build our communities – the places we’re proud to call home – by putting mental health at the center of workplace policies,” said LEO Deputy Director of Labor, Sean Egan, who leads the state’s workplace mental health workgroup. “We encourage employers and employees alike to confront this critical issue impacting the construction industry by implementing the necessary tools to create happier, stronger workplaces.”
With 191,000 construction employees in Michigan, MIOSHA is using Construction Suicide Prevention Week to encourage sites across the state to promote the importance of mental health in the workplace.
“If we can make a difference and save lives, MIOSHA will do whatever possible to assist employers in improving worker protections,” said Bart Pickelman, MIOSHA Director. “A strong safety culture can positively impact workers wellbeing and we are committed to working with Michigan employers and employees to strengthen their workplace safety and health.”
Construction leaders say the COVID-19 pandemic and economy have added even more pressures on workers and resulted in higher rates of substance abuse, adding a level of urgency to address the problem. John Coleman, a former construction worker, is an organizer for Sheet Metal Workers Local 7. Coleman’s father and brother both died from COVID-19.
"Duct-tape and band aids are used to cover up cuts and bruises, but Mental health can’t be covered up with band aids,” Coleman said. “It's a different kind of cut, a kind of scar that construction and blue collar workers aren't used to.”
During the Sept. 8 Construction Suicide Prevention event, state officials along with the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Michigan, Lansing-based Granger Construction, and skilled trade workers will gather at the construction site of the new Michigan State University Student Recreation and Wellness Center to highlight the high number of suicides in the industry and provide resources to employers and employees.
“It felt very fitting with the ethos of this project to choose this location as the site for our safety event, and I really appreciate how much support the University has provided to help make this event available for local tradespeople,” said Dennis Carignan, Granger Construction President.
“The AGC of Michigan recognizes the importance of total worker health,” said Damian Hill, president of Associated General Contractors of Michigan. Events like this will help the industry overcome some of the stigma related to mental health issues. Open and transparent conversations about mental health are needed to advance a strong safety culture in the construction industry.”
Construction Suicide Prevention Week falls within National Suicide Prevention Month and precedes National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept.10- Sept.16).
All Michigan employers are encouraged to invest in the mental health and wellness of their employees by promoting suicide prevention dialogue, training and resources. Additional resources for improving mental health in the workplace are available at michigan.gov/WorkplaceMentalHealth.
If you are having trouble coping with work-related stress, talk with someone who can help. Call or text the 988 Lifeline Chat and Text or find support online at 988lifeline.org.