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Mental health should be among frequent HSE topics

By Nate Healy, Senior HSE Director

Work site safety and driver safety are frequently discussed HSE (health, safety and environmental) topics in the construction industry.  Less discussed, yet very important, a growing number of individuals in the construction industry are dealing with mental health issues, including suicide.

Statistically, suicide is one of the leading causes of fatalities in construction, particularly among middle-age white men who spend much of their time away on extended travel away from friends and family. Because of these facts, it is appropriate to include suicide awareness among safety topics and initiatives.

In March, I had the privilege of speaking on the topic at the annual Distribution Contractors Association (DCA) Safety Congress meeting. Informing members of the audience what signs to look for in someone considering suicide and where to seek help to prevent another suicide was a major step in drawing attention to this critical issue.

National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 4-Sept. 10 in the United States) is an appropriate time to again discuss this topic.

In the spring of 2020, I was trained as an instructor of suicide prevention following the QPR program.  QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer and are the cornerstones of the program.  Since being trained as an instructor, I have trained hundreds of individuals, both internally at Michels and externally with the local community and oil and gas industry. 

Each session brings to light the absolute need for more training within our industry and communities. In each of the sessions, I ask for those who have been affected by suicide to raise their hand.  In every session more than 95 percent of attendees raise their hand. This is clearly a topic that affects nearly everyone in our work and daily lives.

I am honored to carry this message to those I work with daily and provide the tools needed to prevent suicide. I am also grateful to Michels for training more than a half-dozen of my colleagues to share this important message with our crews throughout the United States and Canada. The presentation at the DCA Safety Congress meeting was a great success with several companies reaching out for more information on how to start this initiative or conversation at their place of work. 

The first, and often largest, obstacle in helping someone is finding the courage to talk about these sensitive and often personal topics. But if we continue to talk, teach and provide the needed resources, we can reduce the number of suicides each day.

If you are looking for help or are concerned about someone you know, dial 988 to contact the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. 

  • Nate Healy

  • Nate Healy is an HSE Senior Manager at Michels. Nate has 15 years of experience in safety, including several years in the field at job sites from coast to coast.

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