MATES in Construction: Saving the lives of Aussie construction workers
MATES in Construction is investing in research for mental health in construction workers to help enhance opportunities for early intervention for workers who are dealing with issues in the industry.
Every year, 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own lives, meaning a construction worker dies every second day according to MATES in Constructions research. This number is six times higher than the likelihood of having a fatal accident at work.
As a starting point, thirty construction workers recently came together in Brisbane to talk about what emotional distress looks like for people in their industry. Led by University of Queensland’s Dr Carla Meurk, the consultation engaged an array of construction industry stakeholders including construction workers, unions, industry associations, industry funds and the Queensland Mental Health Commission to co-design a concept of distress that matches the attitudes, behaviours and vernacular of construction workers.
The project aligns with a new direction in Australia’s national response to suicide prevention as outlined in recent reports including the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Final Report and the Productivity Commission’s report on the inquiry into mental health. In particular, the Final Report calls for a stronger focus on data and evidence to drive outcomes, including a national and joined up approach to collecting, sharing, and using suicide data.
The consultation precedes a larger future study that will use key words from the newfound definition of distress to extract and link data from various data sets relevant to the construction industry. This will in turn provide valuable information about the nexus between individuals in distress and where they first turn to for help.
Anecdotally, MATES understands that the first port of call for distressed workers includes an array of agencies whose core business sits outside the provision of mental health support or social care. The current research agenda will enhance opportunities for effective early intervention according to Mates in Construction (QLD/NT) chief executive Jorgen Gullestrup.
“This project will provide the industry with a better understanding of the touchpoints between distressed workers and atypical sources of support,” he says.
“This new knowledge will enable MATES to broaden the application of its existing early intervention model to new locations, pathways and services that align with the real help-seeking behaviour of affected people.”