Underground Construction - September 2020 - 18

Suicide Serious Issue
for Construction Industry
Jeff Griffin | Senior Editor

Every day in the United States, it's likely
that 130 or more people will purposely
kill themselves. That's a reasonable
estimate made by the American
Foundation for Suicide Prevention based
on data from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC).
For the record, the CDC data documents
that 48,344 Americans died by suicide in
2018 (the latest year complete records
are available). That year, suicide was the
fourth leading cause of death for persons
between ages 35 and 54. Overall, suicide
is the 10th leading cause of death in the
U.S. Over the past decade, the number of
suicide deaths has steadily increased.
Classifying suicide as a preventable
health issue, numerous statistics are
available to study the causes and motivations that bring people to the point of
destroying themselves. One consideration
is occupations of suicide victims.
It may surprise some that CDC statistics
place construction as the vocation with
the highest rate of suicides across all
occupational groups, said Michelle Walker,

chairperson, Construction Industry
Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP).
To combat this health and safety issue,
contractors, unions, associations, industry
service providers and project owners must
work together to stand up for suicide
prevention, said Walker, who is vice
president of finance and administration at
SSC Underground, Phoenix, Ariz.
CIASP's stated goals include increasing
awareness about the risk of suicide within
the construction industry and to develop
suicide prevention resources and tools to
create a zero-suicide industry.
"We want to help enable contractors
and other organizations to address mental
health and suicide prevention as a health
and safety priority," said Walker.
Toward that end, the association
offers resources to make construction
management and workforce aware of the
suicide problem and commit to addressing it
in order to reduce suicides in the industry.

CIASP update
Underground Construction magazine
interviewed Walker for an update on
CIASP's programs.
Underground Construction (UC):
How is CIASP raising suicide
awareness within the
construction industry?
Michelle Walker (MW): We are
constantly seeking opportunities to get in
front of industry leaders through articles
such as this, construction conference
sessions, webinars and social media to
share these statistics and provide them
with the tools and resources they need to
tackle this issue in their own organizations.

Michelle Walker, chairperson, Construction
Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention

18

SEPTEMBER 2020 | UCONonline.com

UC: What specific programs
are in place now?
MW: I believe that the most powerful tool
we have is our Needs Analysis & Integration
Checklist that walks construction leaders
through the various ways to create a
comprehensive mental health and suicide

prevention program in their workplace.
In addition, we have templates to print
toolbox talks, posters, wallet cards and
hardhat stickers to share with construction
crews and post on job sites to start
building awareness of the importance of
paying attention to mental and emotional
wellbeing and safety in addition to physical
safety. All of these tools are available at
no cost on our website.
UC: What training is available
and how is it conducted?
MW: We have partnered with LivingWorks
to offer its START training program.
This is an online program that takes
60 to 90 minutes to complete and allows
participants to walk through different
scenarios with people at risk of suicide
to teach about the warning signs and
how to address and connect someone in
need with care. It is a powerful and easily
accessible program that is appropriate
for everyone in the industry to use.
UC: What has been the
construction industry response
to these programs and
willingness to initiate training?
MW: Once construction people get past the
disbelief that the industry is so at risk for
suicide and they learn the industry-specific
risk factors, most seem to understand
quite quickly that this is something that
they must address. The advantage that our
industry has its high focus and priority
on safety, and many steps of integrating a
suicide prevention program can be woven
into these existing safety measures.
UC: Is it possible to know
whether the Covid-19 pandemic
is affecting suicides? Is CIASP
addressing the pandemic?
MW: Some states have tracked and noted
an increase in suicides since the pandemic
started and it would certainly seem logical
that there would be. The uncertainty, social
isolation, and financial and family strains


http://www.UCONonline.com

Underground Construction - September 2020

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Contents
Underground Construction - September 2020 - FC
Underground Construction - September 2020 - IFC
Underground Construction - September 2020 - Contents
Underground Construction - September 2020 - 4
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