adding more anxiety on a person who isn’t able to health-fully
Risk-seeking and access to lethal means
“We’re not born wanting to end our lives; that would be
counterproductive to the human species,” said Walker. “But
by living through dangerous situations or witnessing acci-dents,
people get desensitized to seeing people die or get hurt.
This is a reason that law enforcement or first responders are
highly at risk for suicide.”
When you consider the construction industry, a project
could involve working at high heights, in deep trenches or
around heavy equipment, or in other environments that
would make many people feel uncomfortable.
“People who work in construction already have that sense
of risk-seeking and being comfortable with risk and danger-ous
behaviours because they have to be in order to get the
job done,” said Walker. “But that can also go too far in some-body
who has the propensity and that capacity to take their
A job site also provides access to lethal means.
“We’ve heard stories of electrocutions that weren’t acci-dental
or falls from high places where everyone was tied
off all shift, and then someone was suddenly untied,”
Years of physical work and the natural wear and tear that
comes from a physical job, in addition to any potential work-place
injuries, can lead to chronic pain. For a person who
feels that they may not be able to continue doing their job,
chronic pain can turn into a sense of hopelessness.
“They may think, ‘I don’t have any other skills; this is all
I know how to do, and I physically can’t do it anymore,’” said
Walker. “This situation can lead to addiction, whether that
be to opioids that were possibly prescribed properly at the
onset, or self-medication either by alcohol or drugs to cope
with the pain. Substance abuse may also be a coping mecha-nism
to someone dealing with an untreated mental illness or
a personal situation that they don’t know how to manage.
Substance abuse and the spiral that it can create in a person’s
life is a huge contributing factor for suicide.”
Identifying a person at risk
Noticing changes in a person’s behaviour is the most accurate
way to identify someone at risk of suicide.
“This is why there’s a need to create relationships and
have a little bit more of a consistent team aspect to crews and
construction,” said Walker.
However, there are some behaviours that anyone can
MENTA L H E A LT H
“If somebody is dealing with a severe mental
illness or is at risk of suicide, they’re at a place
of despair. Their mind is not going to be on
the job and they’re not going to be safe for
themselves or others on the work site. It’s in
everybody’s best interest to help them.”
– Michelle Walker, Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention
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