We shouldn’t talk about it.  

It isn’t a problem. 

It doesn’t affect me.

We are going to talk about it.  It is a big problem.  And more than likely it does affect you or someone you know.

Suicide.

The rebirth of Spring is the hardest time for those struggling with mental health issues such as depression.  More suicides and suicide attempts happen in the Spring, contrary to the belief that they occur more during the holidays. Suicide is not a mental illness in itself, but it is a serious potential consequence of many mental disorders, particularly depression.

Spring is also the time the construction industries are breaking new ground on new and exciting projects and ramping up for their busy season – the construction industry also has the second highest rate of suicide just behind farmers and fishermen.

So now IS the time to talk about it. 

The Facts

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), construction workers are four times more likely to die by suicide than the general U.S. population.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for men ages 25-54. And 90% of those who die by suicide have a mental illness and/or substance abuse illness. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to be successful.

Long hours, periods of unsteady employment, chronic pain, sleep deprivation due to shift work and an “old school”–“tough guy” culture are just a few of the probable causes for the high suicide rates among construction workers.

The Warning Signs

It’s important to know the warning signs and what to look for when someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts.

On a job site, a manager or superintendent will most likely be the first person to recognize that there may be a problem.  Knowing what to look for, without trying to diagnose their conditions may just save a life.

These are some of the possible warning signs of a person that may be at risk for suicide:

  • Excessive sadness or moodiness: Long bouts of sadness and mood swings can be symptoms of depression, a significant risk factor for suicide.
  • Withdrawal: Choosing to be alone and avoid friends or social events are also possible symptoms of depression.
  • Self-harmful behavior: Reckless driving, increased use of drugs and/or alcohol might indicate the person no longer values their life.
  • Threatening suicide: Not everyone who says they are thinking of suicide will attempt it, but not everyone considering will say something. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.
  • Recent Trauma or Life Crisis: A major life-changing event such as the death of a loved one, divorce, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job or financial problems, may trigger suicidal thoughts/attempts.
  • Making preparations: A person who is considering suicide will sometimes begin to put their personal business in order.  Giving away prized personal possessions, visiting and saying goodbye to friends and family members.

Knowing the warning signs of suicide is the number one way it can be prevented according to research. Knowing the signs of depression and other mental illnesses and recognizing the warning signs of suicide allows you to intervene before the person can attempt suicide.

The Myths

The construction industry has come a long way in recognizing this problem yet; there are still many misconceptions or myths that surround suicide.

Here are three common myths of suicide:

Myth #1 – Talking to someone about suicide might put the idea in their head

Talking to someone about suicide is not going to put the idea in their head, in fact, it may do the exact opposite.  Someone who is thinking of suicide, talking about it can come as a great relief and help them feel less afraid and more in control.

Myth #2 – Suicidal attempts are just a cry for attention

People may threaten or attempt suicide as a desperate cry for help.  They may not know how to tell others how they feel or may think no one cares or that nobody can help them.

These actions may come across as attention seeking, but they should never be treated as trivial.  All suicide talk and behavior is serious and should seek immediate help.

Myth #3 –  It’s selfish

Individuals who attempt suicide feel they are a burden to others and feel their family and friends would be better off without them.  Some recognize their death would cause loved one’s pain, but they believe they are creating more pain by being alive and rationalize suicide as a way to protect those they care about.

What should you do?

If you find yourself in a situation where someone is threatening suicide, take that threat seriously.

  • Convey concern and listen to what they have to say.
  • Do not leave them alone. Call family and friends and ask them for help.
  • Call 911

If you, yourself are having suicidal thoughts:

  • Remove yourself from danger – Suicide thoughts often hit when you in a potentially dangerous situation (driving, on a balcony, near weapons or harmful objects).
  • Slow your breathing – This helps slow your heart rate supplying more oxygen to your brain, diverting your attention away from whatever thoughts you are having.
  • Reach out – If your thoughts of suicide are increasing in intensity, its time to reach out.  Call a healthline, friend or family member, tell them what you are going through and that you need their support.

At Swanson & Youngdale, our employees are our most vital asset, and we care about their emotional health and wellbeing.   We have established programs to meet their needs, including general education about suicide awareness and an employee assistance program (EAP) available to them 24/7.  If you are a Swanson & Youngdale employee and in need of help contact our EAP resource non-union employees contact HealthPartners and union employees contact TEAM

We adhere to a strong safety culture to set a goal of zero injuries and zero workplace-related fatalities. Suicide is NO exception.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, reach out to one of the crisis services listed below or call 911 and ask for the for the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: save.org

It’s okay to talk about suicide, you might save a life.  It’s okay to get help, you might save your own.