2020 Gold Circle Awards Application
Associated General Contractors of Missouri
The Associated General Contractors of Missouri (AGCMO), the leading voice of the construction industry, represents and serves commercial construction contractors and industry related companies dedicated to skill, integrity and responsibility. The Association provides all members with a comprehensive range of services to help build their businesses. The Association works with the community it serves to build a strong, positive construction business climate.
Denise Hasty, CAE
Vice President of Advocacy & Public Relations
Associated General Contractors of Missouri
6330 Knox Industrial Drive, Ste. 200
St. Louis, MO 63139
AGCMO Suicide Awareness Campaign
$10,000 (Member contractors provided additional funds for posters and hand-out coins, etc.)
The construction industry suicide rate in Missouri is four times the national average. Stress, early hours and late nights for employees are taking a toll on our industry. According to the CDC, the construction industry has the second highest suicide rate among all occupations. The industry’s male-dominated culture likely plays a role in the high rate of suicide, as employees don’t feel comfortable talking to their coworkers or managers about mental health issues. Missouri’s statistics are particularly alarming, with one person dying by suicide every 7 hours and the state ranking 13th highest in the nation in suicides.
One of our members, Bo Cooper, safety director for Alberici Constructors, reached out to Matt Cowell, AGCMO’s safety director, and said, “We have to do something.” AGCMO’s staff and safety committee committed to a statewide industry awareness campaign, You Are Not Alone, centering around National Suicide Week, Sept. 8-14. Before long, the group had organized job site events, developed “toolbox talks”, printed posters, produced “coins” for sharing and, for the first time, got many of our state’s 122,000 construction workers talking about the issue!
Feature stories, event coverage, social media, hard hat stickers, posters and coin sharing all contributed to the word-of-mouth. We got calls from contractors around the country who wanted to “borrow” our campaign. Most importantly, we heard from individual construction workers. One said, “Before I felt all alone, and then a buddy reached out to me. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that buddy who cared.”
The overall goal of our You Are Not Alone campaign was to break down the stigma and “walls” around talking about suicide, especially in our male-dominated, stoic/”tough guy” industry. Some of the challenges our workers face include: seasonal and unsteady employment; travel away from home; high pressure to produce on time; physically demanding work and chronic pain; high prescription opioid use; and sleep disruption, plus a culture of substance abuse; fearlessness & risk-taking; and access to lethal means, including firearms and jobsite hazards.
Our objectives were to:
- Remove the stigma within the industry of talking about mental health issues.
- Educate workers about the warning signs/issue.
- Encourage workers and supervisors to watch out for/reach out to their co-workers.
- Make the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line readily available to anyone seeking help.
- Increase industry awareness of industry-specific challenges.
- Make ample and plentiful materials available in a timely fashion to assist our member contractors.
Mental health is a personal issue, a family issue, a work issue and a society issue. That is why mental health should be part of the safety conversation on the job site. And suicide doesn’t only occur in people who have known mental health issues. Many factors contribute to suicide, including relationships (42%), crisis in upcoming two weeks (29%), substance abuse (28%), job/financial problems (16%), physical health (22%), criminal/legal problem (9%) and loss of housing (4%).
Daily safety sessions are commonplace on job sites. Our objective was to make this important mental health issue part of that safety conversation, encouraging workers to look out for their fellow co-workers and recognize the warning signs. Most of all, encourage them to speak up and reach out if they see signs that a co-worker may be in trouble.
We chose September, National Suicide Awareness Week, as the perfect time to start the discussion and to provide our member contractors with tools to introduce the topic to their employees. Social media played a key role. We developed the following materials (downloadable off our Website and containing the Crisis Help Line and text number):
- Suicide Prevention Campaign Tool Box Talk Guide, complete with conversation starters/instructions.
- Five Toolbox Talk Sheets
There are 5 individual talks that are to be used at a ‘crew level.’ These were written by a team at Washington University School of Medicine, specifically for this awareness and prevention campaign.
- State of Our Industry
- Reduce the Stigma
- Recognizing Warning Signs
- Starting the Conversation
- Five different Takeaway Sheets (Printed 2-Up) with QR Code for distribution
- A striking You are Not Alone poster (shows construction worker slumped over on site) in two sizes - 8.6”x5.5” and 17” x 11”, featuring QRCode, Text “Hello” number and Crisis Line phone number.
- How-To Guide, explaining how to use the materials.
- A Suicide Prevention Awareness for Construction podcast
Also, hard hat stickers, poker chips and posters were made available by calling Matt Cowell at AGCMO. They included:
- “You OK? Hard Hat Stickers”
These are designed to start conversations and carry the Suicide Hotline and text number.
- “You are Not Alone” posters and stickers
These were developed to hang in high traffic areas, i.e. break rooms, project trailers; gang boxes, port-a-potties, etc., where a person can view them privately.
- Suicide Awareness and Prevention Poker Chips
These poker chips are designed to give out to individual employees. A person can keep these and use them if they are in crisis. Or they can give them away to anyone in crisis.
Matt Cowell reports that he and his committee have directly reach more than 10,000 construction workers with this campaign.
- 12,000 hard hat stickers have been distributed.
- 12,000 coins have been given out.
- 6000 posters have been distributed.
- More than 250 contractors/users downloaded Toolbox Talk materials off the Website.
- Calls continue to come into Matt from contractors from as far away as Oregon, Boston and Iowa, asking for help and permission to use our materials.
The campaign reached well beyond our state’s borders. We heard from contractors across the nation who wanted to “borrow” our campaign. At one point, we became the #1 (ranked highest) result on Google Search when typing in “Suicides in Construction.”
Our social media Facebook posts during the campaign created some of our top posts of the year! (#2, #4, #5, #6 and #7) Posts on 08/26, 09/09, 09/10 and 09/11 generated 28,004 impressions with a total reach of 19,050. They had engagement rates ranging from 7.1% to 16% and total engagements of 2,842. The five top posts generated 754 reactions, 44 comments and 163 shares. The campaign also performed well on AGCMO’s new Instagram account with 2,059 impressions and 178 engagements. Len Toenjes’ podcast interview on suicide awareness had 197 plays.
Several major features were published, coinciding with the kick-off:
https://stlouiscnr.com/?s=Suicide+Prevention (Paric/AGCMO kick-off event at Ballpark Village)
https://www.constructforstl.org/agc-mo-rallies-industry-around-construction-industry-worker-suicide-prevention-support/ (Alberici/AGCMO Safety Stand down at SLU University Hospital)
On-line Survey Results:
Eighty-four (84) respondents from 21 companies completed the online survey prepared by Washington University. Feedback was provided by 37 persons taking the survey. Among them, 27 respondents (73 percent) gave very positive feedback about the campaign’s topic and materials while 10 respondents (27 percent) gave more neutral comments. Eight respondents (22 percent) mentioned a personal experience.
Additional URL to Review Campaign Materials/Available Downloads:
Suicide TBT Combined
TBT Facilitator Guide
Take Away Sheets
You are Not Alone Big Poster
You ok Hard hat Sticker
Campaign Report (Provided by Washington University School of Medicine)