Suicide and mental health are issues that are too often overlooked in our society. The construction industry, in particular, has the highest rate of suicide per industry. Mental illnesses are diseases affecting the brain that can be monitored and treated. According to many medical and psychological associations, including the American Psychological Association, suicide is preventable.
You're Not Alone - A Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Blog for the Construction Industry by Bob Swanson
December 2018 - The Differing Perceptions of Physical and Mental Illnesses
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During the first few moments of most of my presentations, I ask the members of the audience to reflect on if and how have they been impacted by the suicide death of a family member, friend, neighbor, fellow employee, etc. Without exception, nearly 100 percent of the audience will acknowledge that they have been impacted by a suicide death. Many of us are suicide loss survivors.
During the past month, I have had three telephone conversations with members of our industry who are having difficulty coping with the suicide death of a friend or family member. Each of these instances highlight that the grieving process of a suicide death is unique. In addition to the normal stages of grieving which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, a suicide death often includes strong feelings of guilt. These feelings often are long term, and they may become a barrier to the normal grieving process.
On many occasions the non-physical issues later become public only after law enforcement personnel become involved. At that point the individual is typically blamed for their behavior without analysis of what prompted the behavior. There is a hesitancy to ask if the behavior was caused by a mental health issue, especially in male-dominated industries such as sports and construction.
I can use my own experience as an example of the effect suicide has on the grieving process. I have not experienced any guilt from my parents’ deaths. In each case, medical benchmarks indicated life could not be sustained. However, with my oldest son, I still face periodic uncertainty as to what else could have been done. My faith in a loving God has allowed me to move on, but even after nearly ten years, feelings of guilt occassionally occurs.
As we consider mental health and the impacts of suicide deaths, it is paramount that we also remember how a suicide affects those around the individual that was lost. It’s important to remember that the effects on loss survivors, whether they are family, a friend or a coworker, can be devastating and long lasting. The pain and guilt is not easy to get past, but we can help by offering our understanding and a friendly ear.
Learn more about this important topic from Bob's podcast on mental health awareness and suicide prevention in the construction industry.