Suicide in the Roofing Industry

A recent study released by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted suicide rates in 2012 by occupational group. According to the study, workers in construction and extraction have 53.3 suicides per 100,000, second only to workers in farming, fishing and forestry (84.5 per 100,000). As such, it is an industry imperative to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health and create caring cultures within our companies.

The CDC’s study found that of about 12,300 suicides in the 17 states studied, 1,324 people worked in construction and extraction (10.8 percent) and 1,049 (8.5 percent) worked in management, a category that includes top executives and other management positions.

The CDC tells us there is no single cause. However, several factors can increase a person’s risk for attempting or dying by suicide. On the other hand, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur. Risk factors include the following:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Family history of suicide or violence
  • Physical illness
  • Feeling alone

Suicide affects everyone, but some groups are at higher risk than others. Men are about four times more likely than women to die from suicide. However, women are more likely to express suicidal thoughts and make nonfatal attempts than men. The prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicide planning and attempts is significantly higher among young adults aged 18 to 29 years than adults aged more than 30 years. American Indians and Alaska Natives, rural populations, and active or retired military personnel also have higher rates of suicide.

In the construction industry, including roofing, there are several factors that make the possibility of attempting suicide more prevalent. The roofing business is seasonal. We work from April to October and get laid off for several months during the winter. Conversely, during the warm months, long com- mutes and even longer workdays in hot weather, compounded by close bids, tight schedules and stringent quality-control measures increase the stress levels of roofers immensely. Depression can set in during these months.

In addition, in construction, we consider ourselves “tough guys”. We believe it is not “manly” to seek help or go to a doctor for medication, despite the fact that some of us will drink alcohol and take illegal drugs to get high. Drug use and addiction are also some of the main causes of the depression that leads to suicide attempts. Unfortunately, men in general are not very likely to ask for help or discuss personal issues. Men may also have easier access to firearms. The CDC says that men are 56.9 percent more likely to use firearms to kill themselves.

To help identify those who may be prone to attempting suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, New York, has developed a list of risk factors. These risk factors are broken down into several warning signs. Consider the following:

  • Changes in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors: This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss or change.
  • Changes in what a person says or does: If a person talks about being a burden to others, feels trapped, experiences unbearable pain, has no reason to live and/or blatantly discusses killing himself/herself, he or she may be having suicidal thoughts.
  • Increases use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Looks for a way to kill himself/herself, such as searching online for materials or means.
  • Acts recklessly.
  • Withdraws from activities.
  • Isolates from family and friends.
  • Sleeps too much or too little.
  • Visits or calls people to say goodbye.
  • Gives away prized possessions.
  • Is aggressive.
  • Experiences changes in mood: depression, loss of interest, rage, irritability, humiliation and anxiety.

No matter what problems a person is dealing with, the volunteers at the Suicide Prevention Hotline want to help those in distress to find a reason to keep living. By calling (800) 273-TALK (8255), a person will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in his/her area, any time. The call is confidential and free.

If you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called for help with many troubles, including substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, abuse, depression, mental and physical illnesses, and loneliness.

LEARN MORE

Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Understanding Suicide Fact Sheet
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
National Suicide Prevention Hotline

About Michael J. Dudek

Michael J. Dudek is an Authorized OSHA Outreach Instructor with extensive experience in general industry and construction.

Leave a Reply