Missouri AFL-CIO’s John Gaal addresses suicide prevention in construction

DR. JOHN GAAL, director for the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative’s Worker Wellness Program, was part of a recent panel discussing suicide in the construction industry and what can be done to help prevent it. – Missouri AFL-CIO photo

Dr. John Gaal, director for the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative’s Worker Wellness Program, recently addressed suicide prevention – particularly suicide in the construction industry – at the Second Annual National Construction Suicide Prevention Summit in Kansas City on March 28.

Gaal was part of the “Innovations in Suicide Prevention” panel, presented at the summit, an event that has doubled in size since May of 2022.

A 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that suicide among the U.S. working-age population is increasing, and that construction and extraction occupations have the highest rates of death by suicide in any occupational group.

Men working in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries, according to the CDC: a reported 49.4 out of 100,000, or twice the total suicide rate for civilian working men.

Here are Gaal’s responses from to two inquiries on the topic:

1) What are innovations for suicide prevention?
There is no single answer to this question as suicide prevention strategies are highly dependent on the local context and culture. However, some possible innovations for suicide prevention that could be applied in different contexts include:

  • Initiating public health campaigns targeted at preventing suicide and promoting mental health awareness.
  • Expanding access to mental health services for all people, especially for those who are vulnerable or at risk of suicide.
  • Developing community-based suicide prevention programs that involve residents and local businesses.
  • Implementing suicide prevention screening and intervention programs in high-risk groups, such as young people, people with mental health issues and immigrants.
  • Empowering victims of suicide by raising public awareness of their right to receive support and compensation.

2) How can suicides in the U.S. construction industry be reduced?
It is important to remove any potential and actual factors that may contribute to suicidal behavior. This may include providing support to individuals who are struggling, as well as educating construction workers about the signs and symptoms of suicide and how to get help. Additionally, it is important to provide access to mental health services and to create a safe environment for construction workers to speak about their feelings.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are struggling with a mental health crisis, please call or text 988 to speak with a mental health professional.)


 

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