By Karen Stokes
September is Suicide Prevention Month. According to the CDC, construction is one of the top five major industries with the highest suicide rates.
The Boldt Company, a local construction firm, created an employee-led Suicide Prevention Program that trains volunteer employee “gatekeepers” in all of its offices to serve as resources and advocates for employees that may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or need to talk about mental health support in the workplace.
“The Gatekeeper Program was started in 2021 in response to both mental health and suicide,” said John Huggett, vice president, general manager for the Milwaukee-based Central Operations team and a local, trained “gatekeeper”.
“What we realized is that the pandemic really created a situation where people were mandated to isolate themselves in some respect,” Huggett explained. “That didn’t help with mental health. Construction companies’ number one priority is people and making sure our people who are providing construction services and delivering our buildings throughout our communities return home safe.”
The Gatekeeper Program was created by the QPR Institute. Right now, Boldt Company has 88 different trained Gatekeeper professionals throughout the U.S. both in offices and construction sites.
The trained Gatekeepers are identified with a purple sticker that says ‘suicide awareness, it’s ok to ask me for help’ on their hard hats, their office doors or their cubicles. There is an annual training for the Gatekeeper professionals.
“The Gatekeepers are trained to really follow the QPR program. QPR stands for Question, Persuade or Refer to be able to identify and help an individual through questions and potentially persuade,” Huggett said. “The Gatekeeper Program is a peer-to-peer program and we are not mental health professionals so that’s where referrals come in.”
The Boldt Company has 14 offices nationwide. Founded in 1889, and headquartered in Appleton, Boldt serves multiple markets and has been in Milwaukee for 30 years.
Construction Industry Suicide Prevention Day has led to partnerships between The Boldt Company, local businesses and Milwaukee area leaders.
The company recently obtained an Executive Proclamation from the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County declared September 27 as ‘Construction Industry Suicide Prevention Day’.
“We’re looking to destigmatize suicide and mental health in our industry. This is about awareness, focusing on people, now we can support each other. This is one program we feel that can make a difference,” Huggett said.