Car accidents and cancer aren’t the biggest killers of Aussie men: suicide is. Nearly seven men a week take their own lives and there’s a very good chance that at least one of them will be a construction worker.
Our industry has a serious problem with suicide. Suicide rates in our industry are three times higher than they are for the general population and construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than in a workplace accident. Our apprentices are two and a half times more likely to suicide than other young men their age. It’s something that’s all too common.
“To be honest I could not go to another wake or drink for a lost mate and sit there and do nothing” says MATES in Construction Field Officer Matt Cole. Matt and his colleagues at MATES save lives by talking about the reality of suicide in the construction industry, training workers to identify the signs and giving them the skills to keep their mates safe until they can be connected to professional help.
According to MATES In Construction CEO Jorgen Gullestrup most people contemplating suicide give out signs that all is not right. “We train construction workers to recognise these danger signs so that they don’t ignore them. They can assist a mate to stay safe until they can get professional help” Mr Gullestrup said.
Employing around thirty staff throughout Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, MATES training is based around one very simple and effective idea: the idea of ‘mates helping mates’. It’s an industry led approach to an industry problem and it involves everyone including employers, workers, employer associations and unions. It’s about changing the culture of the industry so that workers feel OK about seeking seek help and resolve their problems.
Starting in Queensland in 2008 and subsequently expanding into New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, MATES in Construction has delivered General Awareness Training to more than 50,000 Australian construction workers, trained more than 3,500 workers as CONNECTORS and more than 500 workers as ASSIST workers on Australia construction sites. MATES training is only a phone call away as Gullestrup explains. “Employers, unions or individuals can ask us to do a General Awareness Training session on site and we’ll come out and talk to the workers. We want to let them know that there is a problem and what they can do about it”. For those who want to do more, CONNECTOR and ASSIST training teaches workers how to keep someone safe in a crisis and how to connect them to professional help.
As well as on-site training, MATES 24hour/7 day a week telephone crisis line is widely promoted throughout the construction industry. Simply picking up the phone connects any worker immediately to professional help.
MATES training is a unique program that works face-to-face with workers on-site and is implemented by the workers themselves rather than mental health professionals. It’s as simple as asking “Are you OK mate?” Helping a workmate who’s doing it tough is the first step in saving the lives of Aussie construction workers.
If you or your mate are doing it tough and would like help please phone us on 1300 642 111 anytime. We operate 24/7.
More information is available at www.matesinconstruction.org.au