The construction industry is both physically and psychologically demanding. Issues such as lack of job control, job insecurity, hazards, job demands, work/family life conflict, lack of employer and peer support, negative coping mechanisms and stigma toward mental health problems have been identified as factors that place construction workers at an increased risk for poor mental health and death by suicide. While statistics are not available for Canada, current research from across the globe and experience identifies this as an industry issue. In fact, statistics place the suicide rate among construction workers above the national averages in Australia, England and the USA by 2, 3.7 and 4.25 times, respectively.
The industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is not immune to this issue and there is a critical need for conversations aimed at increasing understandings of what workplaces and system partners can do to support the mental health of workers and prevent further loss of life.
Led by the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association, a stakeholder advisory group made up of representatives from both industry and labour are collaborating with Memorial University (SafetyNet) researcher Dr. Kim Cullen hosted a Leadership Roundtable focusing on suicide prevention in the NL construction industry, from Novermber 2nd – 3rd, 2021. The purpose of the forum was to engaged with key industry stakeholders to discuss the issue of suicide in construction, and explore the development of a suicide prevention strategy for the industry here in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The roundtable was be broken into two parts, delivered over the course of two half-days. Facilitator-led conversations focused on:
- Suicide and Construction – What do we know and what is the experience here in NL?
- Mental health resources – what’s available, are they being utilized, and are there gaps?
- The MATES in Construction program in Australia. Could such a program work in NL?
- Taking action. Support for such a program and the path forward.
Each session focused on one specific topic and gave participants the opportunity to provide their feedback and perspective through the use of small group discussions, which then reported back to the larger group. The information that emerged from these discussions has been compiled into the “What We Heard” report.
Further to feedback received during the leadership roundtable, an Industry Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Task Force has been established and the inaugural meeting was held on September 14th, 2022. The task force is comprised of 18 individuals representing the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association, SafetyNet Centre for OHS Research (Memorial University), WorkplaceNL, the OHS Division of Digital Government and ServiceNL, the Canadian Mental Health Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, TradesNL, construction employers and individuals with lived experience.