Construction industry focuses on better mental health

Thursday, 04 April, 2019

Construction industry focuses on better mental health

Not-for-profit organisation MATES in Construction worked in consultation with industry, unions and Beyond Blue to develop and launch the Blueprint for Better Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. The endeavour is aimed at the construction industry and backed by Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ).

MATES in Construction CEO Jorgen Gullestrup said it’s both progressive and smart of CSQ to recognise the impact suicide and mental health have on retaining current skills in the construction industry and attracting new workers, particularly as the construction industry has one of the highest suicide rates of any industry in Australia.

“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,” Gullestrup said.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman launched the blueprint at Parliament House and acknowledged its importance.

“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,” Fentiman said.

In Queensland more than 75,000 workers from over 1500 worksites have joined the MATES in Construction program, which provides assistance to more than 4500 at-risk workers across the state. As part of the blueprint, CSQ is providing funding of more than $700,000 towards the implementation of the new MATES Awareness Training for small worksites with fewer than 12 workers.

The funding will support the following activities:

  • 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 among apprentices.
  • Target small businesses with fewer than 12 workers on site.

CSQ CEO Brett Schimming said the organisation is committed to continuing support for programs and initiatives that work to decrease suicide rates.

“CSQ places great importance on supporting the health and wellbeing of workers in the Queensland building and construction industry and support[s] the work that MATES in Construction does to help in this space.

“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,” Schimming said.

Gullestrup added that suicide is often preventable and that the suicide rate across Queensland’s construction industry had decreased since MATES in Construction started 11 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 young workers in particular,” Gullestrup said.

Image credit: Gomez

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