CFMA Spreads Suicide Prevention Awareness

According to a recent report released by the CDC, the construction industry has the second-highest rate of suicide (per 100,000 population). Given the male-dominated workforce and other indicators prevalent in construction, it’s imperative to bring suicide prevention to the forefront of safety, risk management, and HR discussions in construction companies.

On September 10, the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) joined the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and others around the world to help spread awareness and resources around the goal of preventing suicide.

CFMA’s journey to spread awareness and resources surrounding suicide prevention has covered much ground in little more than a year’s time. April 2016 saw CFMA’s Valley of the Sun Chapter hosting the first regional summit on the topic; CFMA’s Chicago, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, and Portland Chapters have similar events scheduled in 2016 and 2017. After their collaboration on a late 2015 issue of CFMA Building Profits article, longtime CFMA member, Cal Beyer, director of risk management at Lakeside Industries and executive committee member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, CEO and co-founder of the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, mental health advocate, and survivor of her brother’s suicide, have gone on to author more than a dozen articles and spearhead just as many presentations throughout the construction industry. Their most recent work Construction + Suicide Prevention addresses why prevention is imperative in the construction industry and provides 10 action steps companies can take to save lives.

Stuart Binstock, CFMA president & CEO, further details, “CFMA is dedicating resources toward suicide prevention for one reason: If one accepts the premise that our members are responsible for the financial resources of a company and that the health and safety of human capital is an important financial resource, then how could we not get involved in educating the construction industry about this topic?”

The First Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention Association Member

CFMA formed the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention to gather and disseminate information and resources, share education and programming for CFMA’s 94 chapters across North America, and promote initiatives to support suicide prevention. Most recently, the National Association of Surety Bond Producers (NASBP) has shown its support of creating a zero suicide industry by becoming the first association member of the Alliance.

NASBP CEO Mark McCallum affirms, “The conversation around suicide prevention in the construction industry has taken a leap forward with the formation of CFMA’s Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. On behalf of our membership of surety bond producers and allied professionals, I’m proud of NASBP’s decision to commit to this cause, as demonstrated by joining the Alliance and supporting and participating in efforts to raise awareness of this critical issue. The health of the construction industry workforce is important to the well-being and competitiveness of this country, and suicide prevention among construction workers now is being made a focal point.”

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

CFMA Reacts to CDC Report With Education About Suicide Prevention

Statistics from the CDC shows that workers in construction and extraction have a 53.3% suicide rate, which is second only to workers in the farming, fishing, and forestry occupational group (84.5%). With 17 states taking part in the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), this data heightens the need to address suicide prevention and mental health promotion in the construction industry.

The Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) is taking a leading role in efforts to shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness and prevent suicide in construction. CFMA formed the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention to gather and disseminate key information and resources, share education and programming for CFMA’s 94 chapters across North America, and promote initiatives to support suicide prevention.

Stuart Binstock, CFMA president & CEO, further details, “At CFMA’s 2016 Annual Conference & Exhibition, we brought the topic of suicide prevention to an audience of our nearly 1,300 attendees by offering two general education sessions and presentations to chapter leaders, providing flash drives, and introducing our new online resource at www.cfma.org/suicideprevention. Efforts are also underway to encourage our industry partners to join the alliance with the ultimate goal of preventing death by suicide in the construction industry.”

“As a construction company controller, I understand the importance of protecting and supporting our most valuable asset—our human capital,” adds CFMA Chairman Ken Chiccotella. “In conjunction with our conference theme of Building It Forward, ensuring not only the physical well-being, but also the mental health of our workforce must be core to our business strategies and goals.”

CFMA Activity Makes a Difference

CFMA’s Valley of the Sun Chapter recently presented the inaugural Suicide Prevention Summit, a collaboration between construction and mental health professionals to discuss prevention of suicide for the construction industry. Designed for construction industry CEOs, CFOs, HR professionals, and safety and risk managers, the event provided a wealth of knowledge and resources to more than 100 industry professionals in the Phoenix area. CFMA’s Charlotte and Portland Chapters have similar events scheduled later this fall, and additional CFMA chapters are planning events for 2017.

The newly released Construction + Suicide Prevention publications by Cal Beyer, director of risk management at Lakeside Industries and executive committee member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, CEO and co-founder of the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, mental health advocate, and survivor of her brother’s suicide, addresses why suicide prevention is imperative in the construction industry and provides 10 action steps companies can take to save lives.

Dr. Spencer-Thomas states, “Construction industry leaders are stepping forward and changing culture with a new vision around suicide prevention. CFMA has shown bold leadership in spearheading this shift in culture as a conduit in making suicide prevention a health and safety priority.” Additionally, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention cites CFMA’s resources and website in support of the cause.