A report published in the Journal of Community Medicine and Health Education indicates that MATES can save lives. A small team led by Professor Graham Martin looked at suicide rates in the Queensland Construction industry from 2003-2007 – five years before MATES in Construction and compared to the five years after 2008-2012 and found that suicide rates had fallen by 7.8% among construction workers. This is remarkable since suicide rates generally was stable in Australia and even increasing in Queensland over the same period.
It is also noticeable that other jurisdictions not running MATES in Construction from 2008-2012 did not see the same fall in suicide rates as Queensland did.
The results are a strong indication that MATES in Construction is effective although it is not concrete evidence. MATES in Construction had only trained a few thousand workers in 2008 and 35,000 by 2012 out of the close to 200,000 construction workers in Queensland. Had MATES in Construction reached more workers over the period then the results would have been more likely to reach statistical significance. It is also likely that the suicide rates amongst those workers who are exposed to the MATES in Construction program it likely to have fallen significantly more than 7.8% as 7.8% was the fall registered across all of the industry.
It is not possible to definitively conclude that the suicide rates in Queensland fell because of MATES in Construction – but it is a fact that suicide rates fell while MATES in Construction was being implemented and similar falls were not observed where MATES in Construction was not implemented.
The researchers also points out that presuming that MATES in Construction was the cause of the falling suicide rates in the Queensland construction industry it was not possible to identify what part(s) of the MATES in Construction program was the effective ingredient.
The paper recommends a follow up study after 10 years of MATES in Construction as to identify what parts of the MATES in Construction program are associated with the call.
It should be noted that research by Allison Milner from Deakin University published by MATES in Construction looking at national suicide rates in the construction industry seems to confirm the finding of the report. The Deakin report show that the low Queensland suicide rate continued in 2013 with Queensland construction workers recording the lowest suicide rates of any state or territory of Australia.