Making Suicide Prevention a Health and Safety Priority


Suicide Prevention: A Health and Safety Priority for the Construction Industry


July 27, 2016

BY: Nate Traylor

Source: Pool and Spa News


A new report from the CDC places laborers in construction among those most at risk of suicide. Now a group of finance executives have placed themselves on the front lines of prevention.


Construction is an industry where you are more likely to self-destruct.  That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The agency examined the frequency of suicides across different occupational groups and found that construction had the second highest rate, with 53.3 suicides per 100,000 workers. (Those in forestry, fishing and farming are most at risk, with 84.5 suicides per 100,000.)


The findings, published in the CDC’s July 1 “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” came as no surprise to the Construction Financial Management Association. In the past year, the group of approximately 7,500 accountants, controllers, CFOs and HR professionals — some within the pool industry — has committed itself to eliminating self-inflicted deaths by promoting mental health services and encouraging construction firms to create cultures of care.  Read more...


Suicide Prevention: A Health and Safety Priority for the Construction Industry


July 19, 2016

BY: Cal Beyer & Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas

Source: Construction Executive


When the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released its milestone report on occupation and suicide earlier this month, many construction industry leaders took notice.


For the first time, researchers were able to rank industries by highest rates and the largest numbers of deaths by suicide across 17 states. Construction was ranked number two for highest rates of suicide and number one for highest numbers.



Two reasons for the high suicide rate are the workforce and the nature of the work.  Read more...


CDC: Construction has second-highest suicide rate across all industries


July 7, 2016

BY: Kim Slowey

Source: Construction Dive


In its report, using 2012 data from 17 states (12,312 total suicides), the CDC said that construction workers might be more susceptible to suicide because of the unstable nature of employment, which causes financial and relationship problems as well as isolation.


In an acknowledgment of how high the suicide risk is in the construction industry, the CDC said that the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP) has developed special assistance programs for those workers.


In February, The Carson J. Spencer Foundation, in cooperation with the NAASP and RK Mechanical in Denver, announced that it had published a construction industry suicide prevention guidebook to help executives in the business identify risk factors. The guidebook explains how contractors make mental health a priority through open discussion of topics considered sensitive to construction workers.  Read more...

Training – “Utah is supporting Working Minds suicide prevention training for workplaces across the state.


June 21, 2016

BY: Dave McCann

Source: KSLTVEnterprise Team


Leave your personal life at home. That is how most employers and businesses operate. But the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition wants more people to be willing to break that office taboo and ask tough questions about mental health that could potentially save a life. Dave McCann reports.

A Surge in Suicides

Addressing mental health issues on the job is the new imperative


June 2016

BY: Cal Beyer and Bob Vandepol

Source: ISHN


Recent data highlights a surge in suicide rates in the United States to its highest levels in decades.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. Suicide deaths increased from 29,199 in 1999 to 42,773 in 2014. Suicide rates for men and women aged 45-64 increased by 43 per­cent and 63 percent, respectively. Men still account or almost 80 percent of the total number of sui­cides in the United States.


Business case for addressing mental health


Behavioral health disorders are of similar magnitude to physical disorders such as dia­betes and heart disease. Statistics shared by Screening for Mental Health, Inc. include... Read more...


Suicide and Mental Health Issues—Unspoken Topics in the Construction Biz


June 16, 2016

BY: Lauren Elkies Schram

Source: Commercial Observer


Last year, an ironworker named Gary Russo, dubbed the “Second Avenue Sinatra” by the tabloids for singing karaoke during his lunch breaks while working on the Second Avenue subway line, took his own life.


If you saw him perform or read about him five years ago, this news might have come as a shock; one can still find clips of Russo sweetly crooning “Summer Wind” on YouTube to passersby on the Upper East Side. But after he hung himself last August, it became clear that Russo had been growing ever more depressed over life circumstances, including a breakup.


This March, an electrician jumped from the 53rd floor of a Los Angeles construction site. Joseph Sabbatic, who worked two days on the job, had reportedly been depressed and was looking for a stable career when he died.


Joseph Patti, the vice president and chief financial officer of Welsbach Electric Corp. in College Point, N.Y., recalls someone he knew who was facing a layoff in six months’ time and fell off the bridge of a site near the Washington Bridge while doing a steel inspection. “My suspicion was it was a suicide,” Patti said. “He had family issues.” Then there was a construction worker in a bad way that Patti thought was contemplating killing himself, whom he gave a suicide-prevention book that helped the worker get on a more positive track.  Read more...


First Regional Suicide Prevention Summit for the Construction Industry


May/June 2016 Issue

BY: Cal Beyer & Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas

Source: CFMA Building Profits


On April 7, 2016, CFMA’s Valley of the Sun Chapter presented the inaugural Suicide Prevention Summit, a collaboration between members of the construction industry and mental health professionals to discuss suicide prevention 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.“National data shows that men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and Arizona’s numbers mirror this statistic,” explained Sandra McNally of EMPACT-Suicide Prevention Center. “It is wonderful to see the construction industry’s concern about the issue of suicide in their field.”


Speaking Out About Suicide


Cal Beyer, Director of Risk Management at Lakeside Industries and Executive Committee member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, lauded, “The overwhelming support from sponsors and the strong participation by contractors reinforces that the time has come for this topic. Great strides have been made in breaking the wall of silence around mental health and suicide prevention. Contractors want to learn how to build a caring culture to help their employees get the assistance they need to cope with life struggles. I’ve never been more proud to be a CFMA member.”

Summit attendees heard personal stories of loss, participated in a panel discussion, connected with community mental health professionals, and took away resources to help promote mental health and suicide prevention as part of their companies’ overall wellness initiatives.  Read more...

SALLY SPENCER-THOMAS, Carson J Spencer Foundation and CAL BEYER, Lakeside Industries

What Construction Workers Could Teach Other Industries About Mental Health Awareness


May 21, 2016

BY: Amy Morin

Source: Forbes


In the 14 years since I started my career as a psychotherapist, I’ve seen some shifts in the way society views mental health. Slowly, the stigma attached to mental illness seems to be decreasing. And each year during the month of May–Mental Health Awareness Month–I’m always happy to learn about organizations and industries who are working hard to promote workplace mental health.


Although the construction industry may be about the last place you’d expect workers to talk about depression or anxiety, they’re becoming industry leaders in mental health awareness. They’re doing some incredible work to reduce the stigma attached to mental health and they’re saving lives.



Why Construction Leaders Must Address Mental Health and Suicide Prevention


May 18, 2016

BY: Cal Beyer & Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas

Source: Construction Executive


Suicide rates have climbed to a 30-year high, with almost 43,000 cases reported in 2015. Construction has long been recognized as a high-risk industry for suicide. There are industry and demographic risk factors that intersect to make the construction workforce a vulnerable at-risk group.



To help mitigate this risk, organizations including the Carson. J. Spencer Foundation and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention developed the Construction Industry Blueprint for Suicide Prevention in the Workplace. Following is how FNF, Inc., a Tempe, Ariz.-based heavy/highway contractor, is using the blueprint to manage mental health and the risk of suicide in construction.  Read more...


Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry

Why and How Lendlease Weaves Mental Health into Social Sustainability and Safety


April/May 2016 Issue

BY: Cal Beyer & Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas

Source: The NAWIC Image


Suicide is a tragic social epidemic. There were almost 43,000 suicides in 2014 in the United States, which far exceeds the number of deaths from vehicle crashes. Suicide is an equal opportunity killer; the pain and devastation of suicide cuts across the spectrum of society. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the tenth leading cause of death among Americans regardless of age. The CDC ranks suicide as the second leading cause of death among males 25-54 years of age.


Why Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Matters in the  Construction Industry


The construction industry consistently ranks as one of the high-risk industries for suicide in the United States. The construction industry has embedded risk factors such as the “tough guy” culture, chronic pain and relatively high rates of illicit and prescription drug use. In addition, there are demographic risk factors among the predominantly male workforce as well. According to CNA Insurance in a 2015 special report titled Construction Prescription Opioid Abuse, the construction industry is among the highest in terms of prescription opioid use. The New York Times reported in 2015 that between 1999-2014, there was a 22 percent increased mortality for white, middle-aged males between the ages of 45-54 years of age attributable to suicide, substance abuse and alcohol abuse.   Read more...

Phoenix Summit Focuses on Preventing Suicide in the Construction Industry


April 14, 2016

BY: John Guzzon

Source: ENR Southwest


In an attempt to shatter the mental health stigma that plagues so many individuals at work and at

home, the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Valley of the Sun Chapter

organized a half-day "Suicide Prevention Summit" at the Phoenix Country Club on April 7. The first ever stateside, the summit brought together construction industry CEOs, CFOs, Human Resource Professionals and Safety and Risk Managers in an effort to prevent suicide and bring awareness to the ongoing, often silent struggles of men in the workforce.


With a keynote speech by Sally Spencer, the event brought to light some surprising statistics about suicide, including that the construction industry ranked in the top nine industries at risk for suicide.




Image by Helen Harrop and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

Phoenix Summit Focuses on Preventing Suicide in the Construction Industry


April 2016

BY: Clare Miller

Source: Partnership for Workplace Mental Health


RK, a Denver-based mechanical contracting, manufacturing and service company, understands that mental health is everyone’s business. RK’s work to promote mental health awareness was recently featured in Constructor Magazine, an important trade publication from the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, the largest construction industry association.


The construction industry is among the top nine occupations with the highest risk for suicide (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). The industry’s workforce demographics, including gender, age and educational level, combined with a “tough-guy culture” and a tendency to view mental health problems as personal weaknesses, all contribute to high rates of untreated mental illnesses and suicide.


RK, the Carson J Spencer Foundation, and the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention developed a resource for the industry called the Construction Industry Blueprint: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace. RK Marketing and Communications Director, Heather Gallien, contends that the Construction Industry Blueprint is a call-to-action for industry leaders to take a stand for their employees’ wellbeing, “Skilled trade workers are primarily males, and in this industry especially, they’re not accustomed to talking about their internal state. Industry leaders can support their mental and emotional wellbeing by letting them know that it’s OK to discuss their personal concerns with their co-workers or supervisor. A culture that supports emotional openness has much higher odds of being able to help its employees.”  Read More...

A New Imperative for Safety

Linking mental health & suicide prevention with a culture of safety


April 2016 Issue

BY: Cal Beyer, Bob Swanson & Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas

Source: Construction Business Owner


Over the past decade, the  construction industry has made strong strides in improving safety management.  Safety is now broadly defined as a core value throughout the industry. There is an increasing focus on chang­ing safety culture, attaining zero incidents and monitoring key safety performance metrics. An emphasis on the workforce and behavioral safety initiatives challenge business owners to widen what it means to value health and safety. Many companies talk about workers applying safety practices 24/7, going beyond work to include their families at home and during off-hour, recreational activities. Yet the focus on safety at home remains largely concen­trated on physical aspects and precau­tions relating to safety performance. This includes buckling up and driving defensively, wearing protective safety gear and using ladders safely. However, based on industry risk factors and social demo­graphics, the construction workforce and their families need a more holistic safety approach that encompasses mental health and suicide prevention. An industry initia­tive addressing mental health and suicide prevention is ushering in a new frontier for safety. Starting with the publication of the "Blueprint for Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry," there is a call to link mental health and suicide prevention with safety culture. It is no longer suffi­cient to get workers home safe each night. For at-risk workers, it is just as important to get employees back to work safely, too. Likewise, it is important to provide employees with resources and services to help them provide adequate awareness, advocacy and intervention if family members need help. Unfortunately, too many business owners have faced the tragedy of losing an employee to suicide. The death of a co-worker from suicide often carries a unique burden of grief and trauma that spreads throughout the workplace.   Read more...

Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry


March 23, 2016

BY: Marla McIntyre

Source: Construction Executive


According to A Construction Industry Blueprint: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace, the construction industry is in the top nine occupations at risk of suicide.


While men in construction have four times the suicide rate than women, women in construction and extraction had the highest suicide rate when compared with other occupations. The report cites:

  • industry risk factors;
  • a workplace checklist;
  • warning signs;
  • how to create awareness of suicide on the jobsite;
  • toolbox talks;
  • what to say to someone who may be suicidal;
  • recommendations for suicide prevention and resources.

The report was produced by the Carson J Spencer Foundation in partnership with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.


On April 7, 2016, the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Valley of the Sun Chapter will host a “Suicide Prevention Summit” in Phoenix. This half-day collaboration between construction and mental health professionals will explore suicide prevention for the construction industry. Read more...

A New National Partnership Aims to Reduce Number of Construction Industry Suicides

A national partnership of industry leaders and suicide-prevention experts launches an initiative to save lives


February 16, 2016

BY: Jennifer Seward

Source: ENR


Construction ranks among the top nine occupations with the highest risk for suicide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


"Demanding physical work, coupled with the stresses of seasonal employment and minimal access to mental health care, often create a workforce vulnerable to mental health challenges like depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts," says leading suicide-prevention expert Sally Spencer-Thomas.  She is CEO and co-founder of the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, a Colorado-based nonprofit that is finding innovative ways to make suicide prevention a priority in the workplace.


"Everybody knows someone affected by suicide," says Cal Beyer, director of risk management for asphalt paving company Lakeside Industries in Issaquah, Wash.  "It's a real, everyday occurrence [that has typically been] swept under the carpet because nobody wants to talk about it."  Read more...

A Call for Help

Promoting Mental Health Awareness in the Construction Industry


January/February 2016 Issue

BY: Cal Beyer & Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas

Source: Constructor Magazine


"Be vocal, be visible, be visionary.  There is no shame in stepping forward, but there is great risk in holding back and just hoping for the best."


This quote came from a group of college presidents in the 1990s who were attempting to proactively address substance abuse issues when no other campuses were. Other leaders wor­ried about how their constituents might view them if they were the first ones to voice their concerns. It took bold leadership to stand up and say, "Not another life to lose."

Today, the construction industry is seeing the same momen­tum, but the issue is suicide prevention. Increasingly, leaders are stepping forward and changing culture with a new vision and a set of best practices.




According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry often lands among the top 10 industries at risk for suicide. Multiple demographic factors contribute to this including gender, age, and the educational level of the construction workforce. A recent medical study highlights the rising mortality rates of middle-aged males (aged 45-541 without a college education which constitutes a large portion of construction's aging workforce in both the skilled and unskilled trades. Moreover, industry risk factors include the male-dominated workforce with a tough-guy culture which reinforces reluctance among employees to reach out when their mental health is compromised. Thus, many treatable mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and substance abuse are going undiagnosed until they progress to catastrophic outcomes. Add to this the family and social isolation, sleep dis­ruption and chronic pain often associated with field construction work, and many workers find themselves self-medicating with alcohol or becoming addicted to pain medication.   Read more...

Contractors Grapple With Employee Suicide Risk

The Construction industry is increasingly incorporating suicide prevention measures within health and safety programs


November 4, 2015

BY: Katie Kuehner-Hebert



Though it may come as a surprise to some, the construction industry is among the top nine occupations with the highest risk for suicide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Today, the construction industry is seeing the same momen­tum, but the issue is suicide prevention. Increasingly, leaders are stepping forward and changing culture with a new vision and a set of best practices.


“The construction industry tends employ a lot of what we call “double jeopardy men” — men with a number of suicide risk factors who are also the least likely to see help on their own,” said Sally Spencer-Thomas, co-founder and chief executive of the Carson J Spencer Foundation in Denver.

The foundation, in partnership with Denver construction firm RK Mechanical Inc. and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, in September jointly released a suicide prevention guide, “A Construction Industry Blueprint: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace.”


“Employers are learning to make suicide prevention a priority within their health and safety initiatives,” Spencer-Thomas said. “In shifting from reaction to prevention, company leaders become far more proactive in providing skill-based training, linking distressed employees to helpful resources, are creating a culture of care.”  Read more...

Workplace suicide prevention: a systematic review of published and unpublished activities


February 13, 2015

BY: Allison Milner, Kathryn Page, Sally Spencer-Thomas & Anthony D. Lamotagne

Source: Oxford Journals


There are a number of published studies on workplace suicide prevention activities, and an even larger number of activities that are not reported on in academic literature. The aim of this review was to provide a systematic assessment of workplace suicide prevention activities, including short-term training activities, as well as suicide prevention strategies designed for occupational groups at risk of suicide. The search was based on Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) Guidelines. The databases used for the searches were the Cochrane Trials Library and PubMed. A range of suicide prevention websites were also searched to ascertain the information on unpublished workplace suicide prevention activities. Key characteristics of retrieved studies were extracted and explained, including whether activities were short-term training programmes or developed specifically for occupations at risk of suicide. There were 13 interventions relevant for the review after exclusions. There were a few examples of prevention activities developed for at-risk occupations (e.g. police, army, air force and the construction industry) as well as a number of general awareness programmes that could be applied across different settings. Very few workplace suicide prevention initiatives had been evaluated. Results from those that had been evaluated suggest that prevention initiatives had beneficial effects. Suicide prevention has the potential to be integrated into existing workplace mental health activities. There is a need for further studies to develop, implement and evaluate workplace suicide prevention programmes.  Read more...

Suicide Rates by Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012


July 1, 2016

Source: CDC

In 2012, approximately 40,000 suicides were reported in the United States, making suicide the 10th leading reported cause of death for persons aged ≥16 years (1). From 2000 to 2012, rates of suicide among persons in this age group increased 21.1%, from 13.3 per 100,000 to 16.1 (1). To inform suicide prevention efforts, CDC analyzed suicide by occupational group, by ascribing occupational codes to 12,312 suicides in 17 states in 2012 from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) (2). The frequency of suicide in different occupational groups was examined, and rates of suicide were calculated by sex and age group for these categories. Persons working in the farming, fishing, and forestry group had the highest rate of suicide overall (84.5 per 100,000 population) and among males (90.5); the highest rates of suicide among females occurred among those working in protective service occupations (14.1). Overall, the lowest rate of suicide (7.5) was found in the education, training, and library occupational group. Suicide prevention approaches directed toward persons aged ≥16 years that enhance social support, community connectedness, access to preventive services, and the reduction of stigma and barriers to help-seeking are needed.



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