Apr 24, 2023
The First Step is the Most Difficult When Addressing Mental Health
This week’s toolbox tip is courtesy of information from the president of Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, Vince Hafeli, who is working toward his doctorate in business administration. We share this lengthy, yet important, tailgate talk topic ahead of May’s Mental Health Awareness Month because the asphalt industry has the opportunity and responsibility right now to create a culture of caring for its workforce.
Hafeli shares with the asphalt industry that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports construction workers are five times more likely to die by suicide than by a work-related injury. This statistic should encourage us to assist in developing a culture of caring for the colleague on the crew who may be experiencing a degree of mental illness or struggle.
Keep in mind, mental health is a person’s emotional well-being. We all have a baseline for our mental health. Mental illness can encompass many things, varying from mild to severe levels.
Hafeli shared: “None of us should convince ourselves that at some point in our life, we have not or will not experience a degree of mental illness. When you do, there is no shame in saying, ‘I am struggling and need someone to talk to.’ That someone may be a spouse, friend, co-worker or trained therapist. It takes a strong individual to express weakness and ask for help. How strong are you?”
Sometimes, it takes a co-worker or friend to notice someone is struggling. Hafeli has shared this set of warning signs of mental struggles you might see in a co-worker.
- Anxiety or agitation: You may see or hear your co-worker appear nervous, shaken or worried.
- Aggressive behavior or uncontrolled anger: You may see or hear your co-worker act overly bitter, hostile or seek revenge. They may get into fistfights or punch holes in walls.
- Withdrawal: You may see or hear your co-worker stop talking to friends or doing things they used to enjoy.
- Feeling like a burden: You may see or hear your co-worker feeling like they have let down their co-workers or family and feel worthless.
- Reckless behavior: You may see or hear your co-worker work dangerously and seem not to care about the consequences.
- Changes in habit: You may see or hear your co-worker complain of changes in sleep or show significant weight gain or loss.
- Depression: You may see or hear your co-worker mention feeling very sad or withdrawn with this lasting for more than two weeks.
- Increased alcohol or drug use: You may see or hear your co-worker begin using alcohol or drugs more than usual.
Here are signs of imminent danger.
- Feeling desperate: Your co-worker may mention they don’t see their situation changing or a way out; feeling trapped.
- Tying up loose ends: Your co-worker may give away favorite tools or possessions or put affairs in order.
- Saying goodbye: Your co-worker may say a final goodbye (subtle or literal) to co-workers, friends and/or family.
- Talking about suicide or wanting to die: Your co-worker may make statements that are subtle, vague or direct. It could be written or drawn.
- Seeking access: Your co-worker may start looking around to get the tools they need to complete the act of suicide, such as a weapon, prescription or other means.
If any of the above signs are present in one of your colleagues, please bring it to the attention of your foreman or supervisor. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation with your co-worker about your concerns or refer them to call 988, which is the suicide and crisis lifeline.
If you believe a co-worker is in imminent danger or has already harmed themselves, call 911.
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