HUNDREDS of WA construction workers suffer serious injury or die each year as the result of a “silent plague” that’s causing emotional and financial heartbreak.
A new report compiled by Deakin University on behalf of suicide prevention charity Mates in Construction is due to be released this week and shows 469 WA construction workers died as a result of suicide between 2001 and 2015 — an average of just over 33 people a year.
A quarter of all suicides in WA during that period were construction workers.
MIC identified the macho nature of the male-dominated industry as one of the reasons the suicide rate for construction workers was 82 per cent higher than those who worked outside the sector.
“It’s a hard industry and there can be a bit of a correlation between the economy and mental health issues,” MIC field officer Stephen Fryer said.
“Financial pressure impacts on people’s reluctance to speak out.
“They feel they should be able to cope, have shame associ-ated with their sense of failure and feel pow-erless to change it.”
MIC WA operations manager Chrissie Fearon said there was an increase in case management numbers this year.
“This can be attributed to any number of factors, including family, social or employment,” she said.
“The unpredictable nature of the work can have a knock-on effect on family and social life.”
Ms Fearon said while workers could not control the economy, they could learn to manage their mental health.
“We need to spread a message of hope and raise awareness that ordinary people have the power and capability to make a difference by starting a conversation,” she said.
“Talking face-to-face with someone can often make you feel like a light has shone on you and you can sort yourself out.”
During suicide awareness training MIC provided between July 2016 and May of this year, 73 per cent of participants had been exposed to suicide in some way.
“It’s a silent plague because people don’t talk about how common it is,” Ms Fearon said.
“But something can be done about it.
Finding a way back from the brink
SUICIDE isn’t selfish. It happens when people feel they have no options in life.
That’s the message from 52-year-old electrician Jason St Martin, a veteran WA tradesman who’s “been to the brink” and understands it but also knows there is a way out.
“It’s not so much that people want to die, it’s just that they don’t want to live with so much pain and turmoil,” he said.
Jason has been sharing his battle with grief, depression and alcohol since a good Samaritan helped turn his life around.
“A colleague, I don’t even remember his name, said he could tell I was having a hard time. He forced me to meet him for coffee, told me his story and it resonated,” he said.
“By confronting me he gave me my voice back and made me feel like I’m not the only one.”
Jason’s life spiralled out of control after his wife died when his first daughter was just four years old.
“That was the beginning and I made lots of mistakes after that,” he said.
He has been happily married for the past 2 1/2 years and shared his story to help Mates in Construction.
“There is hope,” he said.
The sad toll in WA construction
- 33: Construction workers lost to suicide each year
- 630: Workers attempted suicide in 2012, with 107 ending in full incapacity
- $461m: The cost to the State each year.
- 469: Construction deaths from suicide 2001-2015
Mates in Construction 24/7 helpline: 1300 642 111. Lifeline WA: 13 11 14. Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
This piece was first seen on ‘Perth Now’, July 30 2017.