Men in construction sectors ‘account for half of male suicides’

Report for CIF and Pieta House suggests a high number of deaths among those in production-type jobs

Men working in construction and production jobs accounted for nearly half of all male deaths by suicide in the period 2008 to 2012, a new report suggests.

An estimated 1,039 men from a construction or production background died by suicide during that period out of a total of 2,137 male suicides, according to figures published by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

Mind our Workers, a campaign to raise awareness of suicide and mental health in the sector, was launched on Tuesday by the CIF and suicide prevention charity Pieta House.

A report commissioned by the organisations notes there has generally been little data available on the professional background of people who have died by suicide in Ireland.

But in recent years, the National Office for Suicide Prevention commissioned the National Suicide Research Foundation to undertake a study and to establish a suicide support and information system (SSIS).

In the second phase of that study, some 307 cases of suicide in Cork between September 2008 and June 2012 were examined (275 suicides and 32 open verdicts at inquest).

Of the 307 deaths, 246 (80 per cent) were males. Some 120 of those had been working in the construction/production sector, a total of 49 per cent.

This was more than triple the number of deaths accounted for by next highest sector, which was agriculture.

By extrapolating from the trends identified in the research and applying them to the national data, the researchers said “ it could be soundly estimated” that at least 1,000 suicides came from a construction/production professional background between 2008 and 2012.” This rose to 1,039 when directly extrapolated from the second phase of the study.

Men account for 108,300 or 93 per cent of the total 116,700 working in the construction sector, the Mind Our Workers report notes.

Ten people a week in Ireland die by suicide and eight of those are men.

Some 6,520 suicides took place between 2000 and 2012 - 81 per cent or 5,263 were male.

Between 2008 and 2012, there were 2,137 male suicides.

Pieta House chief executive Brian Higgins said the organisation was delighted to initiate the campaign in partnership with the CIF.

“It is extremely encouraging that a national body as influential as the CIF sees the impact of suicide on the construction industry and its employees and is partnering with an organisation such as ourselves to help tackle the issue. Partnerships such as this are a way of building resilience within our society.”

CIF director general Tom Parlon said the suicide figures for the sector were "shocking".

“The industry can’t ignore this problem – there is a necessity to take steps to try to help those in need. Given the amount of time people spend in the workplace, that is where the Mind Our Workers campaign will focus. By promoting a more open approach amongst construction workers and their colleagues we hope it might reduce the number of people who feel they have no way out.”

CIF president Michael Stone said the organisation wanted to see a working environment where it was acceptable for men to ask their friends and colleagues, "Are you ok?"

The ‘Mind Our Workers’ campaign will run throughout the year. Campaign leaflets will be distributed throughout the industry and briefings and workshops will also be organised for CIF members.

Pieta House representatives will also attend regional branch meetings to discuss suicide and mental health.

A series of ‘toolbox talks’ about mental health and suicide will also be organised at workplaces and construction sites.

Separately, more than 100,000 people are expected to participate in the seventh annual Darkness into Light event for Pieta House in the early hours of Saturday May 9th.