Portland construction company offering workers mental health support

The CDC says the construction industry sees some of the highest rates of suicide compared to other industries in the country.
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 6:51 AM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - The construction industry loses more workers to suicide than workplace accidents, and according to the CDC, the construction industry sees some of the highest rates of suicide compared to other industries in the country.

At Hoffman Construction sites, mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness.

Every day they have “toolbox talks” where they discuss safety, but now they’re also talking about mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, and the resources available to their workers.

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Lines for Life is helping facilitate these conversations through a collaboration called the “Construction Suicide Prevention Partnership.”

“There are folks with lots of folks with firearms, and there is a fair amount of drinking in that community and that that combination of things contributes. Those are all risk factors around suicide,” said Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life. “There we have probably 85 or 100 partners in the construction industry partnership who have come together to recognize this is a challenge and they’re determined to not lose another colleague, another coworker to suicide.”

These efforts are a part of Hoffman Construction’s “GUTS” program which stands for “Get Us There Safe.” Their goal - to make sure their workers get home safely every day.

“I think the biggest thing we’re doing is really making suicide and mental well-being part of an everyday conversation, breaking down the stigma that it’s okay to ask for help, that it’s okay to ask somebody if they’re okay, it’s okay to talk about it,” said Dave Garske, Vice President of Hoffman Construction.

Another piece of the puzzle is the “GUTS” trailer on Hoffman Construction sites. It’s complete with things like couches and Pac-Man, and on the walls they have QR codes connecting people to counseling.

There’s even a private room where they can talk through any challenges they may be going through with a counselor or coworker.

“It really just becomes a community and becomes a place where people are dialed in, knowing that you’re here, you’re here for a reason,” Garske said. “You’re because you’ve got stuff going on and you dial into the conversation a little bit more and you’re supportive of each other.”

They hope this space will help reduce the number of suicides within the construction industry, which the CDC says sees the second highest suicide rates compared to other industries in the country.

It’s a tragedy that hits close to home for Garske.

“This is personal to me. My brother Greg was a superintendent for, I think, construction for 27 years. He took his life through suicide last year. It it’s very personal. That’s gonna be great. Yeah... So, it brings it really close to home,” he said. “The need and really elevates that. It wasn’t just my brother. It wasn’t just our company. It’s our industry. There are a lot of people out there that are hurting.”

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Since this space has been available, Adam Rice and his coworkers have taken advantage and opened up to each other about their struggles.

“It’s been great. I’ve helped out people on my crew in here with, uh, some people have come. They’re having problems with depression. So, we went through the QR codes and help them find an avenue to get help outside of work, which then helped them out at work, and it just makes your workers feel like they’ve got a great place to come to,” Rice said.

If you would like to learn more about the Construction Suicide Prevention Partnership, you can find resources on the Well-Being Revolution community page.