On Workers’ Memorial Day, the labor community is focused on fallen workers and ways to limit the amount of workers who are killed due to workplace accidents and their own personal battles.
These issues are being tackled head on by labor organizations and management together. Mechanical Insulators Labor Management Cooperative Trust (LMCT) Executive Director Pete Ielmini joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to explain what leads to mental health issues in the construction industry and where workers can go for help.
Suicide prevention in construction
It is no surprise to those working in the construction industry that suicide among tradesmen and tradeswomen has been on the rise for some time. In fact, Ielmini said it has significantly risen in the past 20 years, with the construction industry making up 50 percent of all occupational suicides.
The alarming increase in suicides has caused labor organizations and employers to spring into action. The Mechanical Insulators LMCT is beginning to work with mechanical insulation contractors on how to deal with mental health issues and letting them know suicide is not the answer.
While suicides have risen among certain age groups throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ielmini does not believe the pandemic played a significant role in recent suicides. He believes the rise in drug abuse directly correlates with the rise in suicides.
Getting help with mental health issues
While many people do not openly talk about mental health issues because of the perceived stigma, Ielmini and the Mechanical Insulators LMCT are encouraging people to reach out for help.
He said it is important for people dealing with mental health issues to seek help because help it is available. Roughly half of the people struggling with mental illness will seek help, and of that group, nearly 80 percent get the help they need. The construction industry is evolving and the macho man stereotype is being removed. Workers need to reach out when they need it.
How is the Mechanical Insulators LMCT working on suicide prevention
Ielmini explained how the Mechanical Insulators LMCT is in the early stages of hosting several webinars and developing communication sessions for contractors and Insulators Union members alike. These two groups can work together to tackle the issue before it gets any worse.
Finally, suicide prevention needs to be a component of Workers’ Memorial Day. While safety talks are conducted on the job site, mental health needs to become a topic. Having a support system in the workplace may be what saves construction workers from suicide.