Normally we might think that being number two is not a negative thing. However in this case it’s not a good thing.

Construction workers are number two in alcohol abuse. Number two in substance and drug abuse and even more frightening, number two in suicide deaths.

We need to remove the shame and embarrassment our society places on substance abuse and suicide. The stigmas associated with these challenges inhibits people from getting help and speaking out. This needs to be treated like an illness or a disease. The rate of suicide in the construction industry is five times the rate of most other occupations.

Both mental illnesses and substance abuse have affected so many of our families and friends. Awareness of these illnesses and what really causes them will help. Anyone can suffer from such a disease. Poor diet, irregular sleep, lack of exercise, and irregular schedules can all contribute and create an environment for these illnesses.

One simple way to help combat this problem is to listen to our friends and coworkers and take note of any major changes in their lives. We can talk to them, let them know there is help and that we care. As an industry, we need to create an openness and awareness that helps provide support to our workers.

Years ago accidents were considered a part of construction. Now we don’t accept them. The same can be true of suicide deaths and addiction issues. We need to not accept these as status quo. Together, as an industry, we can end the silence on these issues.

It’s the start of a new year. Let’s make construction work fall to the bottom of the list for suicide and substance abuse. Let’s have a healthier New Year!

Be safe and healthy,

Walter Bazan Jr.