The issue of suicide has been in the spotlight over recent weeks, following World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September through to World Mental Health Day, which is taking place today.
There has never been a more important time to have these conversations.
In 2016, 800,000 people took their own lives, with 6,000 of these being in the UK. This has particular relevance for the construction sector, as people working within it are three times more likely to take their own life than those working in other professions.
Between 2010 and 2015, more than 1,400 construction workers in the UK took their own lives, with industry figures showing that at any one time around 350,000 workers could be suffering from mental health problems.
Constant pressure to meet deadlines and budgets, job insecurity, low pay and a macho culture have all been cited as reasons why the sector has such a high rate of suicide and mental illness.
Whatever the reasons, this is a phenomenon that cannot, and must not, be ignored.
Industry taking action
To be fair, some sections of the industry are starting to sit up and listen. Companies are asking what they can do to help improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce, and we have been working with several on suicide awareness training.
“The training aims to enable people to identify when someone is presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviour”
We believe that a good starting point would be to encourage employees to take free, online suicide prevention training, developed by the Zero Suicide Alliance.
The training aims to enable people to identify when someone is presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviour, to be able to speak out in a supportive manner and to empower them to signpost the individual to the correct services or support. In addition, consider seeking out additional training, such as courses for site managers to be able to spot the signs of mental health distress in their colleagues.
The three important actions highlighted in the online training are see, say and signpost:
- See – recognise why a person may be struggling and at risk of suicide and identify some of the signs. They may be withdrawn, expressing feelings of worthlessness, or their social media posts could be ringing alarm bells.
- Say – talk to the person if you’re concerned and ask directly if they are harming themselves or are having suicidal thoughts. Mentioning the word suicide does not make it more likely to happen. In fact, all of the research suggests it is more likely to reduce the risk.
- Signpost – help the person to stay safe for now. This could involve staying with them or taking them to an accident and emergency department. Direct them to helpful resources. It is worth being prepared before you speak to them and having resources such as leaflets ready to show them at the end of the conversation when you’ve gained their trust.
It takes just 20 minutes and can be done anywhere, any time on any device, by simply logging on to the website – www.zerosuicidealliance.com
Joe Rafferty is chief executive of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and a lead member of the Zero Suicide Alliance
More on mental health
- Construction Industry Helpline 0345 605 1956 – managed and funded by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity
- Mind, the mental health charity 0300 123 3393 – provides advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem
- The Samaritans 116 123 – confidential 24-hour support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts