Suicide in construction – let’s talk

In recent times, worrying figures have emerged about the national suicide rate, in particular within the construction industry.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the risk of suicide among low-skilled male laborers, particularly those working in construction roles, was three times higher than the male national average.
And, equally, as shocking, suicide kills far more workers than falls in the workplace. It got us thinking how, in an industry which is so great at looking after physical health and safety, is it ignoring some of the mental health and wellbeing issues that arise?
And if this is the case, why are the numbers so much higher in the construction industry, in particular?
Statistics show that the lower paid professions pose the worst risk of suicide, with concerns about money being a large contributing factor. Added to the poor economic background, is stress at work and abuse of drugs and alcohol.
The suicide rate, in general, is over three times higher in men than women overall and understandably this has been attributed to society encouraging men to button up their emotions.
The inability to talk about how one is feeling is something that is cultivated within men in UK society from an early age. Males are encouraged to be strong and deny vulnerability, to maintain the British stiff upper lip. Yet, it’s this reservedness which is stopping people from sharing their problems or even admitting to having them in the first place.
As such, many internalize the pain instead of dealing with it, which eventually can lead to them taking their own life.
Traditionally construction has been a very male dominated industry, so perhaps, in order to tackle the high rate of suicides, we should be challenging the stereotypes that are restricting men within their daily lives, by encouraging people to talk about their problems.
At Rytons, when we’re looking for candidates to fill a role in construction, we’re not only interested in who they are on paper.
We like to get to know the person, what their likes and dislikes are, what their aspirations are and the kind of person they are. It’s this way that we can know for certain whether a candidate will fit with a client and remain happily within that company for the long term.
In the same way, by getting to know their staff, employers can help maintain their mental as well as physical wellbeing and at the same time, look for any changes which might trigger a warning sign that help is needed.
For males working in skilled trades, the highest risk was among building finishing trades; particularly, plasterers and painters and decorators, who had more than double the risk of suicide than the male national average. And suicide, in general, is the biggest killer in men under 50 years old.
Surely we should be raising awareness about these issues? Even if it saves just one person’s life?
Many people have been affected by suicide, stress or depression at some point or another in their lives and without a doubt, it’s something which should not be swept under the carpet.
Perhaps, by making it easier for people to talk about how they’re feeling and encouraging more of a community within the construction industry it might go some way to tackling the problem head on.