Across Australia suicide rates are generally higher amongst men, particularly men in blue collar occupations and even higher again amongst men in rural and remote areas. In a construction industry context, we have also found that younger workers are of higher risk.

Focusing on rural, remote and small business targets particularly high risk groups in the industry. While there are many factors which can impact on suicide risk, isolation is a particularly high risk factor, so it makes sense to target work situations where workers are in smaller and often more isolated groups.

The Queensland Government has awarded MATES in Construction a contract for $1M over the next 18 months to expand the MATES in Construction program to smaller business, rural and remote areas and to put emphasis on engaging with young workers.

Across Australia suicide rates are generally higher amongst men, particularly men in blue collar occupations and even higher again amongst men in rural and remote areas. In a construction industry context, we have also found that younger workers are of higher risk.

Focusing on rural, remote and small business targets particularly high risk groups in the industry.  While there are many factors which can impact on suicide risk, isolation is a particularly high risk factor, so it makes sense to target work situations where workers are in smaller and often more isolated groups.

MATES in Construction has been very successful in reaching workers on larger sites. With this project we will work out ways and means to engage with smaller family businesses. Queensland has close to 90,000 construction industry contractor licenses highlighting that a majority of the industry in fact are small business.

Over the past years MATES in Construction has effectively engaged with apprentices though our Life Skills Tool Box program. The Life Skills Tool Box is a 24-hour resilience program jointly developed with the OzHelp Foundation. This project will look at ways to get the key messages and learnings from the Life Skills Tool Box out to a broader group of young workers within the industry.

The project will involve substantial research looking at what motivates construction workers to engage with MATES in Construction. The research will specifically look at why someone chose to seek help and why they used MATES in Construction. We expect the findings of the research will help us improve the MATES in Construction program.

Minister for Industrial Relations, Grace Grace said the funding highlighted that suicide and mental health is not just a health issue. Suicide impacts across the community so it is important that we are engaged with suicide prevention across the community as well – suicide prevention in the workplace is a really important part of that approach.

MATES in Construction have long held that “suicide is everyone’s business”. MATES in Construction CEO Jorgen Gullestrup said that the fundamental idea of MATES in Construction is that everyone must be part of the solution – the builder’s labourer, the trades person, business, unions, government and the health sector – all have a part to play.

“We know this approach works, suicide rates in the construction industry has been falling where we have taken this approach, we actually think there are lessons to learn for the community generally” Mr Gullestrup said. He further said it is significant that this project is funded by the Department of Industrial Relations; it clearly says to our workplace community that suicide is a workplace issue that we need to address together.

The project commenced in February and will at this stage run until 30 June 2018. It will involve extra Field Officers focused on each of the action areas, research and a public awareness campaign.  MATES in Construction were included as priority area 6 of the Queensland Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2015-17 and a major scoping project was funded by the Queensland Mental Health Commission in the 2015-16 financial year. This project is the start of the implementation of the larger project scoped within that project.

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