Can we talk about a problem people don’t want to talk about?

10 Sep, 2018

For most people, September begins the back to school season and the feeling of a new year starting. For us at the Canadian Mental Health Association it’s a different season, when we have the opportunity to get people talking about saving lives and preventing suicide.

September 10this World Suicide Prevention Day. For some this can be a hard topic to talk about, one they’d rather not have anything to do with. But we want every Canadian to think about saving lives and preventing suicide, because it’s everybody’s business.  Anyone can learn how to help save a life. The more of us who know what to look for, how to ask and what to do to help someone, the safer our families, friends, workmates and communities will be.

Why does this matter in your industry?

There are a few reasons why the construction industry is affected by mental health in general, and suicide in particular. The first is that the industry employs a lot of the people most at risk – men in their 40’s and 50’s. They are at risk, but also less likely to reach out or accept help. Here in BC, two out of every five men of working age have experienced a mental illness or substance use problem. Due to the nature of the work construction also has a higher injury rate, which can lead to chronic pain, which is then linked to depression and substance use. There are many other factors that may be related, such as unsteady income and weaker connections on the job from moving site to site. Whatever the reasons, the fact is that more men who work in construction are dying by suicide than in most other industries.

There’s an economic cost to the industry when a worker is lost, or when they are off work for mental health problems including addiction. Some research estimates that 500,000 Canadian workers are off work every week due to a mental health problem.

But what’s most important is that suicide comes from someone suffering, and leaves behind suffering. Every death by suicide is a person, not a statistic – someone who died all alone. Around them, those touched by a suicide death may also struggle.

We need to look out for each other at work

You wouldn’t walk past a hazard on the work site without saying something. But too often, we walk past someone who is suffering, and we don’t speak up. There are many barriers to reaching out to someone who seems to be having a hard time — what we expect of men, what is considered suitable to talk about at work and respecting someone’s privacy. It takes a lot of courage and strength to start a conversation like that. But our work tells us these conversations sometimes help save a life.

Many are surprised to learn that for the most part, people who have suicidal thoughts don’t want to die. They want their pain to stop and they cannot see any other way out.  But with help, people can recover from this time of crisis, find new ways to cope and feel better.

CMHA BC was asked by the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan to help with mental health and substance use in BC’s construction industry. If you want to help out or learn more, drop us a line at

Find out more, and sign up for a course to help save a life at 

Learn more at CMHA’s Canadian Centre for Suicide Prevention