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Suicide prevention: how construction workers are breaking mental health stigmas

Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.jpg
Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.jpg
Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.jpg
Posted at 6:41 AM, Sep 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 09:46:07-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Working in construction is rough on the body. Statistics show it can also be rough on the mind, especially during an economic downturn. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the construction industry as having one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

“In 2009 when the economy crashed, we had an alarming amount of suicides. We were losing a carpenter about every three days,” said Frank Hawk, COO of Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters. The union is responsible for building much of Las Vegas’s infrastructure.

Hawk says suicide is an issue that’s impacted his work family and his family at home.

“In 2017, my 18-year-old son took his own life,” Hawk said. “We just didn’t see it coming, we didn’t see signs of mental health. For me, it became this issue, it became a real passion to get involved,” Hawk said.


Mental health isn’t a hot topic for carpentry, but Hawk is fighting to start the difficult and important conversations. When the economy started to struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawk and other industry leaders formed a committee named BOSS, which stands for Brotherhood of Strength and Support.

The program is meant to break the stigma surrounding mental health and get union members who are struggling connected to the right resources.

“It evolved quickly and this model here in Vegas will be replicated throughout 16 different locals, five different states, among 55,000 carpenters,” said Tim Carlton, chairman of the BOSS Committee.


Carlton is hoping the industry’s new efforts in mental health can be the change to save someone’s life.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you or a loved one are struggling, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273- TALK or the Nevada Crisis Line at (800)-SUICIDE.