Every two days, one Australian construction worker takes their own life.
It’s a sobering statistic MATES in Construction CEO Jorgen Gullestrup knows only too well.
Mr Gullestrup’s organisation encourages workers to learn suicide warning signs among their colleagues, particularly with young men – who don’t tend to talk about their problems.
“There’s few people in the industry who wouldn’t, one way or another, have been touched by suicide,” Mr Gullestrup said.
“I certainly have lost mates who worked in the industry.
“When you lose someone to suicide, there’s a lot of thoughts about `what could I have done?’ and `if only I had…’.”
Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick announced the state government’s suicide prevention action plan at a construction site in Brisbane’s south on Wednesday alongside Mr Gullestrup.
Mr Dick said it was a fitting place to launch the initiative, given the high rate of suicide in the construction industry, particularly among 15-24 year olds.
He acknowledged Queensland’s suicide rate in recent years, of 13.3 deaths annually per 100,000 people, was also above the national average of 10.9.
“The suicide rate in Queensland is currently three times the number of people who die on our roads each year,” Mr Dick said.
The plan, to be reviewed after two years, outlines 42 actions the government will implement to reduce the state’s suicide rate, which it hopes to halve within the next decade.
The state’s mental health commissioner, Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck, says Queensland’s suicide rate is higher than other states because its size means people, particularly in rural areas, are isolated and don’t discuss their problems.
“That’s where Queensland has a challenge, because of our isolation and because of some of the stresses we have from the natural environment (like drought),” she said.
QUEENSLAND SUICIDE PREVENTION PLAN’S PRIORITIES:
•Stronger community awareness so families and workplaces are better equipped to support and respond
•Improved system responses to ensure at-risk people get support they need
•Focused support on vulnerable groups, like indigenous communities, with higher suicide rates
•A strong, more accessible evidence base to drive improvement in research, policy and service delivery
This article first appeared on ‘Sourceable’ on 11 September 2015.