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Change the Culture and Save Lives

RCS Suicide Prevention
September 10, 2021 at 3:00 p.m.

By Colin Sheehan, RCS Reporter. 

Learning how to direct the evolution of your company’s culture could be the solution to employee depression and suicide.  

According to the Center for Disease Control, the national suicide rate for males is 27.4 per 100,000 people and 7.7 per 100,000 for females. In the construction industry these numbers raise drastically with a rate of 49.4 per 100,000 for males and 25.5 per 100,000 for females. In a study the CDC conducted using the 2016 National Violent Death Reporting system data, they found the construction industry has the highest rates of suicide compared to all other industries. 

Obviously, there isn’t a simple answer to explain why this is the case and the aim of this article is not to delve into hypotheticals. If you’re interested in knowing a few hypotheses that attempt to explain why suicide is so high in construction, you can read another article I did on this topic: From Awareness to Action: Suicide in the Construction Industry.  

Changing company culture  

Construction is a male-dominated industry and expressing mental health problems or being honest about depression remains a taboo. For women in the construction industry, hypermasculinity affects how welcomed they feel at their place of work. As we can see by the statistics above, women working in construction are three times more likely to die by suicide than the national average. As workwear guru explains, “Breaking the taboo is the most effective way to deal with mental health issues in the workplace.” 

Breaking the taboo would help men feel able to ask for help when they need it and would help women feel more included and appreciated at work. 

But that is easier said than done. Culture, like the people who create it, is incredibly complex. For lasting and meaningful change, understanding and evolving the culture of your workplace might be the most important thing you can do for your business and your workers.  

While it might not be easy, it will be worth it.  

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your company’s culture is affecting its success. Culture is not just an adoption or culmination of your collective employees' behaviors, but something that can be built, directed and maintained. Culture can be encouraging or discouraging in the workforce, and it has the power to bring people together or spread them apart.  

For suicide, mental health and addiction in particular, Greg Sizemore the vice president of health, safety, environment and workforce development at Associated Builders and Contractors said, “The culture must create the conditions that foster openness to speak out and up and must equip and empower all employees with the personal skills they need to feel comfortable speaking up or seeking assistance.” 

Leading the change 

In a business setting, it is the leaders who set the tone for the workplace. Asking encouraging questions, organizing employee gatherings, and meeting with your team members one on one can be very effective practices that lead to healthier businesses and employees. Putting up an old PowerPoint and lecturing your team on suicide prevention is not. 

If it doesn’t feel genuine, it probably isn’t. Improving how your company culture operates in your business is a slow, thoughtful and extremely important process. Not only will this enhance the lives of your employees, but it will contribute to changing the outside perception of the roofing and construction industry.  

For five action steps when implementing suicide prevention trainings, read this article.  

More suicide prevention resources: 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or Crisis Text Line (TALK to 741-741) 

Construction Working Minds  

The Center for Construction Research and Training  

Stay up to date with the latest roofing industry news when you sign up for the RCS Week in Roofing e-news.



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