It is a sad reality that the suicide rate in workers and laborers is 34 percent in the United States between 2000 and 2016. Unfortunately, when we go further and break down the occupations, we find out that the construction workers commit the majority of these suicides. The suicide stats are drastic as the suicide rate is 53.2 per 100,000 workers in 2015. It is important to highlight the fact that construction is a male-dominating field so it is the highest suicide rate among male workers all across the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gathered stats of 22,053 workers of different occupations in 17 different states. The people who committed suicide belong to the age of 16 – 64 years. It is the need of the time to implement suicide prevention measures in the workplace. These prevention measures should involve different programs including:
- Recognizing early signs and symptoms
- Employee assistance and counseling
- Wellbeing programs
- Mental health screening
Factors involved in the high suicide rate
The first and foremost thing before taking suicide prevention measures is to study the on-site factors that lead the workers to commit suicide.
- A worker can be assigned an individual job role or isolating responsibly that does not involve a team. The worker starts to feel alone and does not have a team around to talk to and share things.
- Seasonal or unsteady employment role depending upon the projects and other environmental factors. Temporary employment is a major concern to the workers and laborer and the stress often lead them to commit suicide.
- Mental health, depression, and mental breakdown due to financial or workplace stress cause the workers to feel the pressure. Most often, the workers feel ashamed about their mental health and do not talk about the stress to the people around.
- Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation due to work is a hidden cause behind multiple suicides.
- Chronic pain of joints, backbone or a physical strain due to manual labor leads to pressure build-up on the laborers.
- Isolated frequent traveling to remote sites away from friends and families.
- Work pressure to finish the job within the strict timelines is a major reason behind the high suicide rate
- A strict or rude project manager who humiliates the workers in front of the entire team brings down the employees morale and their commitment to work.
- Low wages as compared to the market cause extreme financial pressure on the workers. The laborers commit suicide when they are not able to meet both ends.
- Poor working conditions and protection hazards add to the daily work pressure. For example, extreme noise, bad lighting and heavy machinery without guarding.
- A worker who is working so much under pressure or a worker who does not have much to do.
- Work involving shifts disturbing the entire routine and family life.
- Lack of communication between the manager and workers. Unclear goals and expectations and a sudden change of plan are a cause of work-related stress.
Recognizing the signs and suicidal symptoms
It is not just the duty of the manager or supervisor to monitor different suicidal symptoms among the workers. Rather, it is a collective effort of all the employees working on-site to look for the suicidal signs in the people working around you. If you find these symptoms in any of your colleagues then immediately report to the supervisor for further counseling. These signs can be categorized into physical, behavioral, and psychological. All these signs are caused by the work-related stress caused by the factors mentioned above in detail.
- Physical signs of stress – The worker may seem tired and show symptoms of dizziness. The workers often experience headaches, joint and back pain, and chest pain. Sudden weight loss or gain and change of appetite are all physical signs.
- Psychological signs of stress – These signs include anxiety, mood fluctuations, indecisiveness and loss of motivation. There can be increased sensitivity in the depressed employee with low self-esteem and low mood.
- Behavioral signs of stress – The worker may find it difficult to concentrate on work. Moreover, increased smoking or drinking and extreme behavior of withdrawal or aggression are all behavioral signs.
Suicide Prevention Guidelines
It is the duty of the supervisor to create a relaxed and non-judgmental working environment. The team lead should encourage and appreciate the efforts of the workers and laborers. A healthy and constructive workplace atmosphere inculcates positivity and motivation among the workers. Rather than ignoring the work-related stress symptoms, the manager should talk about them to the suffering worker. Direct conversations can save many lives as sharing thoughts ease the stress to a great deal. An empathetic and compassionate working environment is the key to happy employees.
Emotional stress is as harmful as any physical pain and causes more damage to the employee. Mental health screening should be a mandatory exercise on a regular basis to monitor the workers psychological stress level. The employees who require help should be guided and directed to the experts and doctors for further support and diagnosis.
The first thing to do is to address issues like workplace protection measures, team building, mental health check-up, job insecurities, and conflict management issues. It is the duty of the construction companies to create a supportive environment. The workers can openly talk about their problems and issues with the manager in order to seek guidance and support.
It is the need of the time to create awareness programs for both the construction employers and employees to understand this suicide epidemic. An effective support system will help the construction companies to identify the issue in the struggling workers and laborers. A peer-to-peer conversation can create a huge impact to nullify the suicidal symptoms. Daily conversations, recognition and acknowledgements programs, and other interactive programs play a vital role in breaking the silence barrier between the manager and workers.