Employee-led program aims to tackle high suicide rates among construction workers

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — Construction is one of the top five industries with the highest suicide rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s why a local construction company is looking to become proactive in helping its employees.

John Hugget, vice president and general manager of Boldt Construction, says the industry can be rewarding but also challenging.

“Budget, schedule, execution, working safely, these are all pressures that our men and women who work in the field feel on a daily basis,” said Hugget.

Hugget explained that the pandemic only added more stress, so Boldt launched an employee-led suicide prevention program. Workers can volunteer to be “watchmen” and take what’s called QPR training, which is for suicide prevention.

“We want to keep our employees safe every day when they come on site. It’s not just about their physical well-being but also their mental well-being,” Hugget said.

The program’s designated guardians have all been trained to help their peers with mental health issues. It is easy to identify these people. They are all wearing purple stickers that say “it’s okay to ask for help”.

“88 people in our company completed the QPR Institute training to ensure that we knew we could begin to de-stigmatize the issues associated with suicide and mental health,” Hugget said.

Regional Director of Security at Boldt, Ryan Olson is a guard. “We do annual trainings just to understand what our role is,” he said.

The program lays the foundation for building a stronger team while raising awareness of mental health in an industry known for its workers who need to be tough.

“I’ve seen it in the past where people have struggled and I wish I had this training before just so I could help more,” Olson said. Custodians are the first line of contact for those in need of assistance and can refer employees seeking professional mental health resources if needed.

If you or someone you know is having trouble and needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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