MATES in Construction has launched its Blueprint for Better Mental Health to assist in suicide prevention for workers in the construction industry.
The blueprint coincides with Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ)’s announcement that it would fund a number of mental health projects.
MATES in Construction is a charity established in 2008 to reduce the high level of suicide among Australian construction workers. It is unique in that it fosters ownership and control of the program with the Australian building and construction industry.
MATES in Construction CEO, Jorgen Gullestrup, said it is both progressive and smart of CSQ to recognise the impact suicide and mental health have on retaining current skills in the construction industry as well as attracting new workers.
“The construction industry has the sad reality that we have amongst the highest suicide rates of any industry in Australia,” Mr Gullestrup said.
“Across the country we lose a construction worker to suicide every second day – more than 190 per year. In Queensland alone, it is more than 45 per year.
In Queensland more than 75,000 workers from more than 1,500 worksites have joined the MATES in Construction program including assistance for more than 4,500 at risk workers across the state.
As part of the blueprint, Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) is providing vital funding of more than $700,000 towards the implementation of the new MATES Awareness Training for small worksites with fewer than twelve workers.
The CSQ funding will support the following:
- Expand current suicide prevention and mental health programs in the construction industry
- Support business in creating mentally healthier workplaces through the blueprint for better mental health
- Develop a new program focusing on reducing the impact of bullying and anxiety amongst apprentices
- Targeting small business with less than 12 workers on site
The blueprint, developed in consultation with industry, unions and Beyond Blue, was launched on 2 April 2019 by Queensland Minister for Training and Skills Development, Shannon Fentiman.
“The Palaszczuk Government has been a strong supporter of MATES in Construction because we know that mental health and suicide are serious issues within the construction industry,” Ms Fentiman said.
“The impact of suicide has devastating effects on families, work colleagues and communities. This blueprint will save lives.”
CSQ Chief Executive Officer, Brett Schimming, said CSQ is committed to continuing to support programs and initiatives that work to decrease suicide rates in the Queensland building and construction industry.
“CSQ places great importance on supporting the health and wellbeing of workers in the Queensland building and construction industry and support the work that Mates in Construction does to help in this space,” Mr Schimming said.
“Improving mental health is an important part of making sure that skills obtained by construction workers in Queensland are retained in the industry and used as efficiently as possible.
“We need to ensure the building and construction industry represents a sustainable and safe workplace which attracts and keeps workers on their career pathways through the industry,” he said.
Mr Gullestrup said suicide is often preventable, as has been demonstrated with a decrease in suicides in the Queensland construction industry since MATES in construction started eleven years ago.
Young workers have higher risk of suicide than other workers in the industry and younger men in Australia generally. Research shows that apprentices in the industry experienced significant bullying and often felt poorly supervised.
“We will be able to work on an industry program to change the culture and provide better support for apprentices and in young workers in particular,” Mr Gullestrup said.