Suicide in construction and within manual labour is not often spoken about. Unfortunately, this is not because it does not take place. Suicides within manual labour have increased by more than 50% since 2015. Went from 48 per 100,000 in 2015 to 73 per 100,000 in 2019. However, the rate for non-manual workers, such as managers, fell from Seven per 100,000 to just under Five. [source:constructionnews.co.uk]
This blog is going to look at why suicide rates are so high within the manual workplace industry and the support that companies could offer their employees.
Our Mental Health First Aid courses cover the signs you can look out for that someone may be struggling with depression and be in need of further help. Alongside with looking at a term used a little too often and even more often within construction known as “man up”. We discuss how this kind of language can have long term damage and is a barrier for many to seek help and support. Also, women within construction.
Yes, that is right women within manual labour jobs!
Why is suicide so high in construction?
Unfortunately, suicide takes place in all work industries but it is rising fast in manual labour. More than 1,400 construction workers took their own lives between 2011 and 2015, according to national statistics. Averaging at losing one to two construction workers every day. [source:theguardian.com]
The construction industry is known as a “tough work industry”, which can therefore make employees feel the need to pretend to be okay. More conversations are needed in this industry to discuss how best to support their employees.
No employee should feel ashamed to talk about how they are feeling. This just results in them bottling up their emotions, leading to a bigger mental strain and a bigger blow-up.
Suicide in manual labour
Unfortunately, people within the manual labour industry can feel too ashamed to reach out for professional help or even any help regarding their mental health. This is often because employees within this industry are often made to feel as if they cannot express emotions. Due to the stigma behind being a strong independent worker.
The number of suicides within manual labour is more than three times the national average for men.
How to offer support within construction
To offer support for the construction and all other manual labour jobs we can start by first talking about how high and serious the numbers are.
Other ways would be to make sure your workers feel that they are in an environment where they can talk openly about their issues with no judgement. Providing Mental Health courses within the manual labour workplace will also make a massive difference in reducing stigma, helping them to understand their own mental health well-being and how to support others.
A well structured Mental Health policy allows employees to feel and understand if their mental health matters. Meaning they feel cared for and looked after by their employees.
Construction workers can often feel as if they are easily replaceable as their jobs may not require any qualifications but more experience or personal skills. Therefore, many feel that they are not a significant member of the company. Introducing Mental Health First Aid courses to your workers and implementing a Mental Health policy will reinforce that you care for your staff and your workplace environment.
Depression and signs of struggle in the construction
Recognising the early signs of someone struggling can be an important part of helping to support them. The sooner you notice someone is struggling the sooner you can install help and support, therefore, making it easier for them to see a positive.
Signs someone is struggling would be:
Feeling low and sad.
Becoming easily agitated.
Avoiding friends and social activities.
Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy.
Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs.
Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress.
Thinking about suicide.
Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
Signs may differ from person to person so may not be so obvious in everyone and some people may even try to hide them.
Man up construction
Referring back to what was mentioned before as the construction industry is known as a “Tough Workplace”. Construction workers are often told to “Man up” as they work in a “tough industry”. Meaning people will feel as if struggling with mental health makes them sensitive and weak.
Often being told to “Man up” can then lead to your emotions feeling invalid. Therefore, resulting in feeling as if you are wrong for feeling how you feel. Feeling as if struggling is something to feel ashamed about as you work in a “Tough Workplace”
Women within construction
Another topic that often goes unspoken about is women within manual labour industries, such as construction. There are many women-led construction companies.
Looking at how women would be made to feel when working within this industry. Women will often be told it is a man's place leaving them feeling as if they are looked at to be inadequate for the job. Often being told they choose to work in a “Tough industry” so to be tough. Unfortunately, women can even often be told that they are not able to do a physical job properly. Often being put down due to their gender.
It is equally important that this is addressed within construction industries as well.
Here is a chart of suicides by occupations found from:
Mental Health is unfortunately often overlooked in many work industries. I
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