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Mental health takes center stage at Annual Meeting

Multiple sessions at the NAPA 2024 Annual Meeting centered on mental health, with a Jan. 31 locknote address from cooking personality Andrew Zimmern and a special presentation from Ajax Paving of Florida President Vince Hafeli concluding the 69th meeting of the asphalt pavement industry.

Hafeli has traveled the country to share his testimony and shine a light on suicide rates among construction workers, which outpaces the rates of the general population at an alarming pace. He has promoted a proclamation to “strengthen the construction industry to provide an optimal environment to encourage construction workers to discuss mental health struggles without fear of repercussion or reprisal.”

Hafeli’s book, “Mental Health & Suicide”
explores his life story and his mission to raise
awareness for construction worker suicide.

During the closing general session, NAPA President and CEO Audrey Copeland and Chair Brady Meldrem joined the Board of Directors in adding their names to the proclamation, which aims to collect as many signatures as possible before 2025.

Hafeli also led a concurrent session titled Stressed Out: Why Mental Health Matters, where he was joined by Minnesota Asphalt Pavement Association Executive Director Abbey Bryduck and Rich Jones of Youturn Health to make the case for better support within the construction industry for mental health. 

“Nationally, if you look at the numbers of about every 100,000 people in the U.S., about 14 people will die by suicide,” he told those in the workshop, noting that the rate for men in construction is nearly four times as high.

Hafeli shared his life story, including memories from his darkest moments when he considered taking his own life. He offered an abridged version of his story during the general session ahead of a locknote address from celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, who shared his own story of an attempted suicide and his efforts since to change the stigma that prevents many people from getting help.

“We’re not going to solve it in one-size-fits-all panacea,” he said. “We’re going to solve it in organizations like this; talking to each other and exporting what works out into other groups. That’s how we’re going to solve this. For me this is the issue of our time.”

If you are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. Help is available. Dial 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

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