One hundred twenty-three suicides per day. One death every twelve minutes. Suicide is a deeply concerning public health issue that affects individuals across various demographics, including the workforce.
Suicide Prevention Month is observed every September to raise awareness and increase prevention efforts. Various organizations and affiliations have created observances to increase awareness and provide resources.
In 2020, a group of volunteers across the construction industry launched Suicide Prevention Week to build awareness of the higher-than-average number of suicides in the construction industry. This year, that week is observed September 4-8, 2023.
While factors contributing to suicide are complex and multifaceted, research has indicated that specific work industries may be associated with higher suicide rates. There is a sobering reality of suicide rates among different work industries. Understanding this reality calls for examining potential factors contributing to these disparities and addressing mental health in the workplace.
Diversified Landscape of Work Industries
Suicide rates can differ significantly across different work industries. Studies have shown that some industries tend to have higher rates of suicide compared to others. Industries with high-stress levels, demanding work conditions, job insecurity, and lack of support systems are often more vulnerable to elevated suicide rates.
A CDC study examining data in 32 states found that the suicide rate among workers in certain industries and occupations was significantly greater than the general U.S. population, particularly for males. The industry groups that had the highest suicide rates per 100,000 workers were:
- Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction (males: 54.2)
- Construction (males: 45.3)
- Other Services (example, automotive repair; males: 39.1)
- Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting (males: 36.1)
- Transportation and Warehousing (males: 29.8; females: 10.1)
The occupation groups that had higher suicide rates than the general population were per 100,000 workers:
- Construction and Extraction (males: 49.4; females: 25.5)
- Installation, Maintenance, and Repair (males: 36.9)
- Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (males: 32.0)
- Transportation and Material Moving (males: 30.4; females: 12.5)
- Protective Service (females: 14.0)
- Healthcare Support (females: 10.6)
Healthcare: Healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and caregivers, face immense stress due to long working hours, emotional strain, and the burden of patient care. This industry’s demanding nature can increase the risk of burnout and mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
Construction: The construction industry is known for physically demanding work, fluctuating job prospects, and financial instability during economic downturns. These factors can create a high-stress environment that affects workers’ mental well-being.
Isolation and Loneliness
Agriculture: Farmers and agricultural workers often need more support due to remote locations and long hours. Unexpected weather, financial stress, and maintaining family traditions can lead to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
Job Insecurity and Financial Strain
Mining and Extraction: Workers in mining and extraction industries may experience job insecurity due to fluctuating commodity prices and the temporary nature of many projects. Financial instability and concerns about job stability can contribute to mental health struggles.
Creating a Safer Work Environment
Addressing suicide rates in different work industries requires a multi-faceted approach focusing on improving workplace conditions and promoting mental health awareness.
Mental Health Support: Employers can implement mental health programs that provide resources, counseling services, and confidential support for employees facing mental health challenges.
Reduce Stigma: Encouraging open conversations about mental health can help reduce the stigma of seeking out help. Training managers and employees to recognize signs of distress can create a more supportive environment.
Work-Life Balance: Implementing policies prioritizing work-life balance and offering flexible working arrangements can help alleviate stress and burnout.
Provide Access to Resources: Providing easy access to mental health resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and helplines, can offer immediate support to individuals in need.
Mental Health First Aid at Work: Also known as MHFA, this fully customizable program teaches employees how to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges encountered in the workplace.
Suicide rates among different work industries highlight the urgent need to prioritize mental health in the workplace. By understanding the challenges unique to each industry and implementing strategies to support employees’ well-being, we can work towards reducing the prevalence of suicide and creating healthier work environments for all.
Companies within the construction industry can sign up to participate in Suicide Prevention Week. Participants will receive resources to plan activities for your workers. By participating, companies will receive an OSHA-recognized, industry-enforced certificate of participation and badge.
Axiom Medical is the only occupational health provider that provides employees with dual physical + mental health assessments. Our team of behavioral health nurses uses a K6 screening to evaluate employee mental health distress and can help avoid mental health crises in the workplace, like suicide. Click the button below to check out a case study of how Axiom Medical’s dual physical + mental health approach saved a life and helped an employee in need.
Charli Pedersen works for Axiom Medical as their Content Marketing Specialist. She has her bachelor’s degree in English, Professional and Technical Writing and previous experience with creating content for businesses and non-profit organizations.