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

NOW: Employee-led program aims to address 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 aiming to get proactive about helping its employees.

John Huggett, Vice President and General Manager of The Boldt Company says the industry can be rewarding but also challenging.

"The budget, schedule, completion, working safely, all these are pressures that our men and women working in the field feel on an everyday basis," said Huggett.

Huggett explained that the pandemic only added more stress so Boldt launched an employee-led suicide prevention program. Workers can volunteer to be "gatekeepers" and go through what's called QPR training, which is for suicide prevention.

"We want to keep our employees safe everyday when they come on site. That is not just their physical well being but their mental well being," said Huggett.

The designated gatekeepers of the program have all gone through the training to assist peers with mental health related issues. It's easy to identify these people. They're all carrying around purple stickers that say 'it's okay to ask me for help.'

"88 people throughout our company went through the training of the QPR institute to make sure that we knew we could start destigmatizing issues associated with suicide and mental health," said Huggett.

Regional Safety Director at Boldt, Ryan Olson is a gatekeeper. "We do annual trainings just to understand what our role is," he said.

The program is laying a foundation to build a stronger team while raising mental health awareness in an industry that's known for its workers needing to have tough skin.

"I've seen it in the past where people have struggled and I wish I had this training before just to be able to help more," said Olson. The gatekeepers are first line of contact for those who need help and can suggest to employees seeking professional mental health resources if needed.

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

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