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Wallet cards are a time-honored safety tool. They afford ready access to important information to users who need information when it is least expected, as well as furnish security and peace of mind to the employee carrying them. Wallet cards provide helpful reminders on important safety matters, including emergency contact information for both the employee and employer. 

Wallet cards benefit employers as well. They can be used to demonstrate employees’ competency for completing specialty training courses including:

  • flagging in work zones; 
  • forklift, aerial lift, crane and other heavy equipment operation; 
  • Competent Person training for confined space entry or trenching and excavation; and 
  • OSHA 10-hour or OSHA 30-hour courses.

Many construction companies or large construction projects issue wallet cards indicating employees have successfully completed jobsite orientations. Others issue wallet cards with the company’s zero injury safety philosophy, vision and core values. Some of these cards even grant all employees unquestioned stop work authority. 

Wallet cards have evolved from paper copies to plastic embossed cards and even retrievable digitized data. Smartphones and tablets in the field make sharing and saving electronic copies of forms even easier than traditional paper wallet cards. Successful safety communications are personal, inviting and engaging - the springboard for effective safety coaching. Safety conversations center on a mindset of safety 24/7 where employees focus on safety not only at work, but also when they are off the clock. So, when a tool was needed to begin weaving mental health and suicide prevention into construction safety culture and safety programs, it was natural to turn to the wallet card.

Many companies now provide suicide prevention wallet cards to employees in a new hire orientation program. Some companies are making these wallet cards readily accessible by placing them in areas where employees gather, including lunchrooms, training rooms and break rooms. An increasing number of companies provide wallet cards as part of safety toolbox talks or educational lunch and learn sessions. The most proactive companies are offering suicide prevention training classes and developing coaching sessions to train peer counselors in how to use wallet cards and other communication techniques. 

The intent of providing wallet cards about mental health and suicide prevention is to normalize the topic by making it conversational. The wallet cards make mental health and suicide prevention a regular, mainstream safety topic. This has the positive effect of reducing the stigma about not talking about mental health and suicide prevention in the workplace. 

The very act of sharing a wallet card with another person is interactive and relational. The exchange breaks down barriers and builds trust. Wallet cards create opportunities for positive safety conversations. Sharing a wallet card is a non-threatening way of providing helpful resources. Sharing suicide prevention wallet cards sends the message to new employees that the company is a “safe place” and that the company cares about employees “inside and out.” 

By discussing mental health and suicide prevention with new hires, a company is demonstrating bold leadership that they are accepting and inclusive of everyone. Equally important is the message that teasing and bullying about mental health concerns is not appropriate and will not be tolerated by the company. 

Facts and statistics support why mental health and suicide prevention are a workplace safety topic. One in four people will experience a diagnosable mental health condition in their lifetime. The number one mental health condition affecting the workplace is depression followed by anxiety disorders. Depression alone accounts for more than 200 million lost workdays annually. Suicide rates continue to rise nationally with more than 46,000 in 2017 or 129 per day. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control reaffirmed the construction industry as the leading industry for suicides among all occupations. 

By providing mental health and suicide prevention wallet cards, employers are acknowledging that mental health matters and employees may experience challenges that affect their mental wellbeing or their life/work balance. In fact, if a company truly believes in safety 24/7, then it is not sufficient to focus only on getting employees home at the end of their shift; it is equally important to focus on getting employees back to work safe from home, prepared physically and mentally to handle job demands. 

Moreover, when employees take the wallet cards home with them it increases the opportunity to make an impact. Beyond sharing with spouses, significant others, children or other family members, many employees are active in coaching youth sports, church or civic groups or other forms of community service. These all multiply the possible impact of each wallet card provided to employees in the workplace. 

Importantly, wallet cards are not a substitute to access to quality medical care or even an Employee Assistance Program. Rather, wallet cards can be a gateway to improving access to care if employees better understand that help is available and how to access resources. 

There are numerous success stories of people seeking and obtaining help after receiving a crisis text line or suicide prevention wallet card during an orientation, toolbox talk, training class or by attending a company or industry presentation. Employees may save a life by offering suicide prevention wallet cards to others. In the words of a television commercial featuring a prominent credit card company, “What’s in your wallet?” 

How to Obtain Suicide Prevention Wallet Cards 

There are four primary resources and phone numbers that may be appropriate to include on a company wallet card:

  1. the employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP);
  2. crisis Text Line (text to 741-741);
  3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800/273-8255); and
  4. Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention

Contact the company’s Employee Assistance Program to see if wallet cards (or refrigerator magnets) with contact information for their service and recommended crisis hotline are available for distribution to employees. 

There are no known sources for ordering free bulk quantities of suicide prevention wallet cards; however the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sells 25 wallet cards on its website for $5.

Many companies began printing their own wallet cards using public domain images and company logos/pictures. The author’s employer uses a commercial printer, Precision Press, Issaquah, WA, that has pre-formatted two wallet card templates for both Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (a tri-fold that requires cutting and folding). The imaging artwork is available for use by other companies. Contact Jim Bowers at (425) 883-4181 for information about cost and expected delivery time.

Crisis Text Line has one format available online.

There are several versions available from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has several wallet card templates, including Suicide Warning Signs. A second version of this card is customized to share with individuals recovering from a traumatic experience and discusses difficulty in coping. A Spanish version is also available. 

An alternative downloadable template is available from the Suicide Prevention Resources Center and focuses on strategies for staying safe from suicide risk. 

Finally, the Construction Financial Management Association has created a tabletop tent card template as part of its commitment to sharing resources for the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP). 

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