In 2014, construction company RK experienced the suicide of a worker, shaking its 1,500 employees and becoming a pivotal event for the company.
The death brought home some painful facts. Construction and mining (including oil drilling) have the highest suicide rates of all occupations, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the suicide rate for working-age adults has been rising in the U.S., increasing by 34% to 17.3 suicides per 100,000 in 2015 from 12.9 in 2012.
Kinning spent the months after the incident meeting with industry leaders and suicide experts.
The result: RK, which was founded 56 years ago by Kinning’s father, eventually put together what is now regarded as a model for suicide prevention in the construction industry. It involves 24-hour access to counseling services, lenient leave policies and crisis training for managers, among other things.
Most critically, says Kinning, the company embraced lots and lots of open talk about mental health. Kinning estimates having averted around 15 suicides since launching the program.