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Halifax construction sector working to improve mental health supports among workers

Click to play video: 'Construction workers and high rates of suicide' Construction workers and high rates of suicide
September marks Suicide Prevention Month, and according to a CDC report, construction workers have the highest rates of suicide. Ashley Field has more on why that is, and what’s being done to combat the issue – Sep 21, 2022

The construction industry in Nova Scotia is doing its part to support the mental health of workers.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) south of the border finds that the rates of suicide in the construction industry are estimated to be three to four times higher than in the general population.

MJ MacDonald, the CEO of Construction Safety Nova Scotia, said the statistic left her “shocked” and “appalled.”

“And then there was this sense of moving into action and what can we do to help?” said MacDonald.

Read more: Nova Scotia funding $3M in mental health and addictions grants

Over the next year, the association will be partnering with the Canadian Mental Health Foundation to create a peer-to-peer support program that will place volunteers throughout the sector.

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“We know that combating it means being able to speak safely with somebody and creating cultures where it’s OK to talk about it,” said MacDonald.

On RCS Construction sites, the mental well-being of their staff is paramount.

“As it shifted in the last 10 years … it’s one of our four pillars right now in our business — that mental wellness has to be on the forefront for all our employees,” said Andrew Doucet, a partner with the company.

It’s a sector that has long struggled with stigma, coupled with job insecurity, seasonal work and sometimes lack of benefits.

Read more: New mental health hospital in Halifax to offer day treatment starting in April

“Back in the day, I don’t think people really had the confidence and the stigma was really tough; stigma that mental health wasn’t really an issue whatsoever.”

As someone who has struggled with his own mental health, Doucet has made it his mission to change that way of thinking at RCS.

“Our management team, from the office to the site staff, understand completely how serious we take it,” he said.

He said he hopes that by sharing his own experience with anxiety, his employees will feel more comfortable opening up as well.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

Crisis Services Canada’s toll-free helpline provides 24-7 support at 1-833-456-4566.

Kids Help Phone operates a toll-free helpline at 1-800-668-6868 with 24-7 support for young people as well as the Crisis Text Line, which can be reached by texting HOME to 686868.

The toll-free Hope for Wellness helpline provides 24-7 support for Indigenous Peoples at 1-855-242-3310. Online chat services are also available.

Trans Lifeline operates a toll-free peer support hotline for trans and questioning people at 1-877-330-6366.

For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

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