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    Silent No More

    September 24, 2018

    September is almost over – have you heard any mention that September is Suicide Prevention Month? Given the fact the suicide rate within the construction industry is four times the national average, it’s something we need to be talking about.

    Suicide is a major public health crisis. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, with approximately 13.42 deaths per 100,000 people. For those of us in the construction industry, the risks are even higher. 

    Construction workers have the second-highest rate of suicide in the nation. For every 100,000 construction workers, 53 will take their life each year. 

    To put this in terms of our company, based on the average volume of workers/employees we have working across Balfour Beatty buildings projects, the alarming statistics suggest that eleven of our workers will take their own lives

    Imagine for a moment if the industry suicide statistics were applied to any singular cause of death in construction. In other words, if the same number of people were being killed in a similar jobsite accident each year. There would be an urgent cry for action and accountability. The amount of focus, awareness and measures to eliminate the risks leading to the fatalities would be immense.

    We need to apply the same level of awareness and action to the epidemic of suicide. As an industry that is so deeply committed to safety, we need to understand why suicide is so pervasive in our industry. We need to expand our focus beyond just physical wellbeing and include mental wellbeing as an equally important safety concern. We need talk and find ways to help those who are in need and at risk. 

    I would bet that almost everyone knows of someone who has been impacted by suicide or who may be at risk. It’s a complex, emotional subject and I’m sure most of you are reluctant to speak up about it because it is hard to know what to say. . .or do. . .or how to help.

    But the reality is, we have to say and do something, or the epidemic is only likely to grow. The challenge is how do we approach such a deeply personal topic? Talking about our feelings and mental wellness is not something everyone is used to or comfortable with. Especially in construction where the “tough guy” culture remains strong. 

    It doesn’t have to be complicated – just start the conversation, stop being silent. Asking questions such as “Is everything going ok? How are you holding up?” are some easy ways to get started.

    In construction, we talk a lot about making safety personal. This is exactly the key to recognizing and supporting those who are at risk of suicide. By paying attention to our teammates, making a personal connection, openly talking about mental wellness in meetings, tool box talks and safety moments, we can forge the personal connections and possibly help make the difference between life and death for someone. 

    Here at Balfour Beatty we are committed to driving the critical conversations that underpin the risk of suicide in our industry. We are actively seeking ways to raise awareness and incorporate education/resources into our business to help protect our employees. My hope is that we can work together with our partners and peers throughout the industry to ensure anyone experiencing distress or mental health concerns gets the support and protection they need.

    There’s no more for silence around mental wellness and suicide. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start the critical conversations. Get comfortable with the topic of mental wellness and start talking about it today.

    Here is an infographic that puts the epidemic in to perspective, but more importantly gives you tips and resources to turn to for support. 

    If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal or experiencing any kind of crisis we urge you to seek immediate assistance through any of the following resources:

    • Calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK
    • Calling 911
    • Balfour Beatty employees can also call the confidential EAP assistance line 877-695-2789