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MATES In Construction

Posted by Simone Poulter | Jun 19, 2023 6:15:00 AM

Every year 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own lives; this means we lose a construction worker every second day to suicide. Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work. For our young workers, the facts are that they are well over two times more likely to take their own lives than other young Australian men.

Research by MATES (in conjunction with the Queensland Mental Health Commission) identified that distress is often associated with changes in the way one thinks or can rationalise, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and sadness. Interviewees identified a change in behaviour or demeanour as the main indicator that someone is distressed: changes in work performance, absenteeism, personality changes, aggression, and challenges with relationships outside the workplace were all considered key indicators.

Several options for help were identified including support from MATES in Construction, helplines, sport clubs, health professional, work colleagues or supervisor, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). But it these rely on the individual at risk proactively sharing their feelings, something that's not often done if workers find it difficult to discuss them with colleagues at work, or the nature of the work has made social support more difficult. ‘Pride’ is identified as a major issue: male workers have a problem with not being viewed as ‘manly’. 

What Do You Do If You Suspect A Mate Needs Help?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to support help-seeking. RUOK suggests starting a conversaton is the best place to start. You don't need to be an expert to reach out - just a good friend and a great listener. Use these four steps and have a conversation that could change a life:

  1. Ask R U OK? Make sure the person you're asking knows you're being serious. Be mindful of the environment - most people are less likely to talk about feelings in a crowd or if they feel put on the spot. 1-1 or 2-1 is ideal and in an environment where your mate is relaxed.
  2. Listen. Maintain eye contact, set aside distractions, give them your full attention. 
  3. Encourage action. Whether this is calling MATES or another helpline, changing hurtful behaviour like self medicating, asking for help from colleagues, removing stress, or looking at ways to change mindset. Help them build a network of support.
  4. Check in. The first conversation can be to listen, the second to discuss options, and the third to follow up on what action's been taken and whether it's helped. Some people have bad days but if someone is in real stress, the problem will take time to address. Make sure they know you are always available.

It's important for workers and workplaces to provide a nonjudgmental and supportive environment that respects individuals’ privacy. In high risk industries it's also important to promote (independent) services such as MATES or Lifeline across a worksite with posters and leaflets and regularly reminders that help is a conversation away. Lifeline's site supports a number of apps such as MindDoc and Smiling Mind that anyone can use to make a change without feeling shame or a loss of pride. 

Employers also need to provide adequate professional training so that employees can meet workplace demands in a safe and healthy manner. A MATES training session goes a long way to achieving this. MATES field staff will come to your site to meet and train workers, helping them to improve mental health and suicide prevention literacy, increase help seeking and help offering, and engage the workforce in creating a mentally healthy workplace. They'll also work with on site Volunteer Connectors and ASIST workers on how to identify, support and connect workers to help and support themselves.

Help Is There For You

If you need to speak to someone please call the MATES Helpline on 1300 642 111 which is available 24/7, or call (131114), SMS, or online chat with Lifeline 24/7. In case of emergency, call 000.

Mates In Construction - On Site

Last month we participated in an event for Platform Constructions with other events for customers planned for later this year. If you think your workers would benefit from a MATES session please get in touch with them on their contact page, or reach out to our customer care team.

Topics: workplaceaccident, innovation, construction, mentalhealth, ruok, WHS, matesinconstruction

Written by Simone Poulter

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