The construction industry is often associated with strength, resilience and tough work. However, behind the scenes, there's a silent struggle that many in the industry face — mental health challenges leading to a concerning rise in suicides. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention, construction occupations have the highest rate of suicide, as well as the highest number of suicides across all occupational groups.
According to the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP), there are approximately three job site fatalities in construction every day, and an estimated 10 to 12 suicides among construction workers. With that in mind, CIASP strongly suggests that suicide prevention is just as important as job safety. “The macho, tough guy, and stoic nature of construction workers can even discourage those who are most at risk for suicide from seeking help.” Employers must embrace a corporate culture of care that promotes wellness programs and provides a safe place for employees to seek help when they need it without fear. Programs like these can also help retain employees.
MCAA is taking that to heart with the first-ever public release of its suicide prevention video. The release of the video to the general public is somewhat significant, as historically, MCAA safety and health resources have only been available to MCAA members.
“Construction has one of the highest rates of death by suicide of all industries in the United States, about four times higher than the general population,” Robert Beck, 2023-2024 MCAA president, says in the video. “Rethinking how our industry approaches mental health will have immediate impacts. Mental health awareness is one of the biggest opportunities to make a difference in our industry today. We need to shine a light on the importance of mental health.”
Beck goes on to talk about how MCAA has partnered with NECA, SMACNA and TAUC to generate awareness of 988, the national three-digit suicide prevention hotline for the construction industry. “It’s OK to not be OK,” Beck adds.
The stigma surrounding mental health has deep historical roots, often perpetuated by misconceptions, stereotypes and fear. Mental health conditions have been stigmatized as signs of weakness or instability, leading individuals to hide their struggles and avoid seeking help. This stigma creates a culture of silence, hindering progress in mental health awareness and advocacy.
Education plays a key role in challenging these misconceptions, as increasing awareness about the realities of mental health conditions helps dismantle stereotypes. Initiatives such as public awareness campaigns — like MCAA’s video release — can help contribute to changing attitudes and fostering empathy.
There are a number of ways contracting business owners can promote mental health awareness, ranging from education initiatives, open communication channels, establishing employee resource networks, leadership training, implementing mental health-friendly workplace policies, promoting work-life balance, providing access to counseling services and more.
The construction industry can no longer ignore the mental health crisis within its ranks. By breaking the silence and addressing the unique challenges faced by construction workers, the industry can create a more supportive and compassionate workplace. It is time to prioritize the mental well-being of those who build our cities and infrastructure, ensuring that no one suffers in silence.