Las Vegas, NV

March 3-7, 2026

Open Menu
Close Menu

Dr. Vince Hafeli’s Mission to Save an Industry



If you are in a mental health crisis, call or text 988 to speak to a crisis counselor now. You can also text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line and speak to a live, trained crisis counselor. Learn more about the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 988.

Dr. Vince Hafeli, president of Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, has had a distinguished career in the construction industry since 1985. From the outside, his life has been one of success and abundance. Beneath his professional achievements, however, Vince carried a heavy secret for many years — an attempted suicide that he kept hidden from almost everyone around him. This secret, and the struggles that led to it, ultimately became the foundation of his mission to raise awareness about mental health and suicide in the construction industry. In a candid interview with CONEXPO CON/AGG 365, Vince opened up about his journey.

Growing up and throughout his career, Vince faced numerous personal challenges, including the loss of his father, brother, two children and mother within a few years. There was also the immense pressure of climbing the professional ladder in a demanding industry that valued strength and stoicism. Despite his success, he experienced a profound sense of isolation and internal conflict, leading him to the brink of taking his own life one night while driving home. At the time, and for a long time after, Vince barely acknowledged this attempted suicide, saying that stemmed from being taught that men are not supposed to show weakness.


As Vince delved into this research, he began to confront his own experiences and emotions. This process of exploration and discovery became therapeutic for him, allowing him to come to terms with his past and recognize the importance of sharing his story. Vince realized that by speaking openly about his struggles, he could help break the stigma surrounding mental health issues in an industry where such topics are rarely discussed. Sharing his own mental health journey and attempt to take his life was not easy – but it allowed Vince the clarity to help others.

“Once you start sharing, it's out there; and it is what it is,” he says. “You find out there's so many other people that have the same feelings that you do.”

Vince’s research and subsequent advocacy work culminated in his powerful TEDx talks and the publication of his book, Mental Health and Suicide, which has touched many in the industry and continues to be shared. The book not only shares Vince’s story but also 12 other extremely personal stories of loss, along with practical advice for industry leaders.

“There were a lot of times that I cried when I was writing that book,” he says, “but that's all part of the healing process.”

Vince’s TEDx talks on mental health and suicide in construction have received millions of views and brought widespread attention to the issue. His honesty and willingness to be vulnerable resonated deeply with many, prompting individuals from across the country to reach out to him and share their own stories.

“Everyone wanted to hear about the topic,” Vince says of his TEDx talks.” That started getting the message out there.”

Vince worked with Women Of Asphalt to do a webinar with Cal Buyers in March of 2023 discussing the topics of mental health and suicide in the construction industry, including his own experiences. That evening he started getting calls from women across the country, saying “Thank you.”

Vince has since done the same talk at more than 60 locations. “It's not uncommon after I give a talk to have several men either email me or catch me on the hallway and want to sit and talk about their struggles and where they've been and say, ‘Thank you for starting this conversation.’”

Vince says people reach out to him with requests for him to share his story, something he strives to do with honesty and transparency.

“I'm doing this because I actually want our industry to be better than it is – so that another man may not to have to go through what I went through.”


Statistics reveal a stark reality: the construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicide among all professions. According to the CDC, the suicide rate for males in the construction industry is 56 per 100,000, significantly higher than the national average of 14.3 per 100,000. For construction laborers, the rate is an alarming 91 per 100,000. "Men are more likely to die by suicide; and, in the construction industry, the rate is twice as high," Vince notes.

These figures highlight the urgent need for mental health awareness and intervention. Vince’s research revealed that fewer than half of the people he interviewed recognized mental health and suicide as significant concerns. Moreover, only one in seven had a formal program in place to address these issues. Even more troubling was the fact that more than 50 percent only started addressing mental health and suicide after losing an employee to suicide.

Vince shared a sobering statistic that he wants everyone to know. In 2021, 951 construction workers in the U.S. died on the job. That same year the industry lost 4,813 to suicide.

“Why is it we sit in all these meetings, and we talk about the 951, and how we've got to make the work zones safer – but how come we don't ever talk about the 4,800?”


Recognizing the need for systemic change, Vince started at his own company, spearheading several initiatives at Ajax Paving to address mental health and suicide awareness. He began by integrating mental health discussions into the company’s safety meetings and toolbox talks. "We have to get to the point where talking about mental health is as normal as talking about physical safety," Vince says.

Understanding that leadership plays a crucial role in fostering a supportive environment, he emphasized the importance of company leaders openly addressing mental health issues and creating a culture where employees feel safe to seek help. “It has to begin with the leadership of the company,” he says.

One of Vince’s significant changes was the establishment of the Ajax Warriors, a group of employees trained as “mental health first aid responders.” This initiative ensured that support was available at all levels of the company, making it easier for employees to find someone they felt comfortable talking to. The Ajax Warriors program proved to be a lifeline for many, with several instances where employees were able to receive the help they needed thanks to the program’s intervention.

“Sometimes, just knowing someone is there to listen can make a huge difference,” he says.

Vince is also leading a national campaign to promote awareness of suicide and mental health wellness in the construction industry called the Suicide in Construction Awareness Proclamation. Everyone from major companies like John Deere to trade associations and everyday workers have signed to show support for this issue.


The construction industry faces many unique challenges in addressing mental health issues, many that Vince experienced firsthand in his journey. Driven by the desire to prevent others from experiencing the pain he endured, Vince is a powerful reminder that mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of their success or position. By turning his personal struggles into a platform for advocacy, Vince has made a lasting impact on the construction industry, helping to create a more compassionate and supportive environment for all workers.

"You can't fix what you don't know," Vince says about why he works so hard to bring mental health issues to the forefront of the construction industry. There is no magic or one-size fits-all solution, but he says the simple act of talking saves lives. This is especially true in the construction industry with men who are not accustomed to sharing how they feel.

“Let's just keep it simple,” he says. “Let's just talk. Talking is completely free. Any company can do it, large or small.”


For other companies looking to follow in Ajax Paving's footsteps, Vince offers five pieces of practical advice:

  1. Start Small: Begin with simple initiatives, such as incorporating mental health topics into regular safety meetings.
  2. Engage Leadership: Ensure that company leaders are actively involved in promoting mental health awareness. Their commitment sets the tone for the entire organization.
  3. Create Support Networks: Develop programs like the Ajax Warriors, where employees can receive training and support each other. Spend a few dollars on 988 stickers (Suicide & Crisis Lifeline) and stick them in porta potties or on hard hats.
  4. Consistent Communication: Regularly discuss mental health in various forums to normalize the conversation. This consistent messaging helps create a culture of openness and support.
  5. Know Your Employees: Regularly check in on your workforce. Ask how someone is doing and actively listen. Struggles at home should not be hidden at work. Mental health and wellness require a holistic approach.

Content Notes: The CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365 newsletter will feature content about mental health over the course of the next few months. While these topics can be challenging, we want to remind you about one underlying feature: hope.

We will tackle topics related to suicide, PTSD and other mental health conditions that are prevalent in the construction industry. There are resources to help – whether you need help yourself or want to help a friend. Where there is help, there is hope.

One way to attack the mental health stigma is by telling your story. Please contact us if you would like to share your journey with fellow CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365 readers.

Another way to help is to share this story on your social media or with someone who may benefit from hearing about mental wellness in the construction industry.

Photos courtesy of Dr. Vince Hafeli

Subscribe to the CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365 weekly newsletter to receive more great stories like this.