OSHA says mental health disorders are a workplace danger often overlooked.

Karena Lorek is the OSHA Area Director in Kansas City and a founding member of the Suicide in Construction Taskforce. She said suicide is the leading cause of death among working age adults in the United States.

“In 2022, there were more than 49,000 suicides, which equals to one suicide every twelve minutes,” said Lorek. “According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, suicide accounts for 4.5% of workplace fatalities. In construction workers, it’s 4 times higher than the general population.”

Aside from a higher suicide rate in construction jobs, she said that mental health at the workplace needs to be prioritized.

“One, talking about it is key. Not being afraid to ask the question, ‘are you okay?’ If you see any signs, changes in mood, behavior, people giving away possessions, or the person maybe talking about suicide, asking if they’re okay, even if they say ‘yeah, I’m fine,’ ask again,” according to Lorek.

Lorek points people to 988, the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. It connects anyone experiencing mental health, suicide, or a substance use crisis to 24/7 accessible care and support.

“What OSHA is doing, and with the taskforce is doing, is trying to break the stigma around suicide and mental health and talking about sharing signs and symptoms, how to get help, where to get help, may end up saving a life,” she said.

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