Mental health initiative targets construction workers

A new initiative has been launched to address suicide in the construction sector.

Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, officially opened the ‘MATES Stronger Together’ program on 23 October 2020.

“We know that construction workers are at significantly greater risk of suicide than workers in other industries, sadly a worker takes their life every two days,” said Constance.

“2020 has been one hell of a year, so it’s particularly important at the moment to do everything we can to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of our workers,” he said.

Workers on Australia’s biggest public transport project, Sydney Metro, attended the program’s launch which aims to deliver cultural change in the construction industry – highlighting that suicide is something everyone has a responsibility to look out for and prevent.

Minister for Mental Health, Bronnie Taylor, said the program would embed and normalise suicide prevention within a vulnerable population.

“We know over 40 per cent of people who die by suicide have not reached out for professional help, so creating a web of support within high risk communities like the construction industry is critical in encouraging help-seeking behaviour and saving lives,” said Taylor.

Across Australia, 190 construction workers take their lives each year, six times the number killed in workplace accidents, according to Transport for NSW.

Young workers in the construction industry are reportedly more than twice as likely to die from suicide than other young men.

The ‘MATES Stronger Together’ program is run by MATES in Construction, a partnership between building companies, unions, employer groups, and mental health organisations working to raise the standard of mental health in the industry.

MATES in Construction NSW CEO, Brad Parker, said the program was about giving workers the tools they need to support their mates on site.

“MATES Stronger Together is about more than raising awareness, it’s about providing workers with practical tools to help them identify warning signs and act with confidence,” said Parker.

“The goal is to create strong networks of support on construction projects across the country, with workers looking out for those suffering from suicidal thoughts and having the confidence to talk to them and connect them with the help they need.

“Factors like job insecurity, high work demands, financial stress, relationship breakdowns, and mental health challenges can all put workers at risk of suicide.

“Our goal is to give workers the tools they need to build strong support networks on site that not only reduce suicide, but seek to eliminate it completely from the construction industry,” he said.

Sydney Metro Chief Executive, Jon Lamonte, said the importance of healthy social connections had become even more pertinent this year.

“If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s just how much we can take ‘connectedness’ for granted and how important our social connections really are,” said Lamonte.

“Our ‘mates’ really do play an important role in preventing suicide in this industry,” he said.

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis or distress, please seek help immediately in a life-threatening situation by calling 000 or seek support though one of these services:

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
  • NSW Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511