Safety is central to our mission at PennDOT. Secretary Gramian and I spend a lot of time talking about things like equipment safety and the importance of driving the speed limit through work zones to keep the men and women safe who build and maintain our infrastructure.
In addition to the physical safety of our workforce, their mental health and well-being is also important. Work-related stress can have a severe impact on mental health and, without proper support, can lead to suicide. This is particularly concerning in the construction industry, which has one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries.
More research is needed to better understand why the rates of suicide in the construction industry are dispropotionately higher than other industries. However, we know that work-related stresses such as seasonal work, demanding schedules and workplace injuries certainly contribute.
That is why I recently joined with leaders from multiple Commonwealth agencies and advocates from Prevent Suicide PA to recognize September as Suicide Preventin Awareness Month. Earlier this month, we gathered at an event at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg to raise awareness around the work we are collectively doing to embed suicide prevention efforts across systems.
At PennDOT, we interact with the public every day across our transportation network and are well situated to take opportunities to share important information with our customers, including information about suicide prevention. There are simple things we can do to potentially save a life, such as posting messaging at our welcome centers and on our 511PA travel information app, and even on our roadways.
At the event, I shared a statistic that is truly shocking: The suicide rate in our industry is five times greater than the rate for all fatal work-related injuries.
This should be a wakeup call that we need to take suicide in the construction industry seriously. The more we can do to actively destigmatize and raise awareness about mental health, the better. We also need to look at the culture of the industry, and move past the “tough it out, be a man” banter.
To all of our employees – and all Pennsylvanians laboring in the construction industry – please know that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. You matter and you are not alone. We care about you and appreciate all you do every day.