Each week, ICBA’s Jordan Bateman reflects on what we’ve learned as we participate in ICBA’s Workplace Wellness Program. This program is free for all ICBA members – check out icba.ca/wellness for details.

It’s hard to talk about suicide. It’s still a source of much secrecy and stigma. We see that in vaguely-worded media reports of deaths; in TransLink and Ministry of Transportation reporting “police incidents” at various SkyTrain stations or bridges; in obituaries; in carefully crafted and labelled TV shows; and in everyday life.

Yet we all know someone who died by suicide. It’s a tremendous loss that we never really get over.

This month, our ICBA Wellness program talks about suicide prevention – teaching us how to identify and recognize the signs in ourselves and others. These are not easy things to say out loud, and yet we must.

Especially in construction, where the suicide rate is five times that of the rest of the Canadian population. Our workers are more at risk than nearly any other group.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll write more about this, but let’s start with the two biggest warning signs we should all keep an eye out for:

  1. Someone thinking about or talking about suicide
  2. Someone having a plan for suicide

This seems obvious, and yet we can easily gloss over little comments, thinking they might be hyperbole or jokes. But when it comes to suicide, it’s worth taking an extra moment and asking more questions.

Our friend Corey Hirsch is blunt – he suggests just asking straight out, if you have any sense of a red flag at all. “Are you okay? Are you planning to hurt yourself? How can I help you through this time? Let’s talk about this…”

Listening won’t increase the risk of suicide – just the opposite, in fact. It may save a life.

***Remember: if someone you know is considering suicide or has already created a suicide plan and you sense it’s an emergency situation, act immediately and call 911. And if you’re contemplating this yourself, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 833-456-4566.***

ICBA’s Workplace Wellness Program is helping more than 75 companies and 7,000+ construction professionals better understand mental health. The program is free for ICBA members — see icba.ca/wellness.