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In the construction industry, a disturbing and unnerving trend has been developing over the past few decades. Construction and resource extraction have the highest rate of deaths by suicide compared to any other industry. This phenomenon is not limited to a single country. The statistics from three developed countries with strong construction and resource extraction industries (United States, United Kingdom and Australia), reflect the same pattern.

A major risk factor that has not been given much attention and scrutiny is the requirement for many workers to be away from their homes for long periods of time, based in remote locations and basecamps. This isolation contributes to loneliness and disconnectedness that increases the vulnerability to employees at risk due to underlying mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, or those with suicidal ideations or prior attempts. Basecamps or remote work locations remove workers from the support networks of family, friends, and even medical and psychological caregivers.

Employers placing employees in remote work locations should be mindful that simply wanting to work in a remote location does not necessarily equate to being able to cope well in such an environment—unless appropriate supports are provided. Companies need to become proactive to lead employees to become true teams to help reduce the risk of suicide among their workers.

Best Practices to Reduce Suicide Risk Among Construction and Extraction Workers in Remote Work Areas

Following are a few ways employers can improve the experience of employees working remotely.

  • Provide supervisors with education, resources and training tools about mental health and suicide prevention.
  • Incorporate mental health and suicide prevention resources into new hire orientation/induction processes and toolbox meetings.
  • Training all workers to become confident in mental health first aid is a proactive step towards suicide prevention in remote locations and work sites.
  • Provide employees with direct lines to specific mental health and suicide support options in their orientation packets, even before they commence their orientation/induction process.
  • Provide appropriate activities for workers—ones that will assist in distracting them from missing family and friends as much. These activities may be as simple as a movie night, a card game night, and walking every evening or morning for some exercise.
  • If possible, encourage family stays/visits in the area to remove some of the burden of being away from home.

Warning Signs of Suicide Risk for Remote Location Employers

Employers and coworkers shouldn’t encourage or ignore the following factors and behaviors.

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, even with dinner, if the crews have to eat at pubs and clubs.
  • All night benders when the crew works 12 to 14 hour (or longer) days and they are away from their main support networks.
  • A workmate who’s distressed, angry, crying and/or irritable. Do not leave a person showing the warning signs of suicide alone.

When it comes to suicide prevention, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends strategies such as "enhancing social connectedness and expanding access to relevant resources, strengthening state or local economic supports, implementing practices that encourage help-seeking and decrease stigma, and providing referrals to mental health and other services,"  according to Naomi Thomas with CNN.

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