‘MATES in Construction’ charity launches in New Zealand

Recently, the spotlight has been shone on construction industry personnel suffering from mental health problems. The industry has been overshadowed by grim statistics. In 2019, it recorded the highest working-age male suicide rate for any industry group in New Zealand.

A key focus of the Construction Sector Accord, which was launched earlier this year, is ‘improved health and safety at work'. A key part of the health and safety initiative is mental health. Industry focus on improving mental well-being extends beyond the Accord.  Recently, the MATES in Construction charity was launched in an effort to reduce the incidence of suicide and improve well-being of construction workers.

What is MATES in Construction?

MATES in Construction is a charity seeking to address and improve awareness of the significant over-representation of construction workers in suicide statistics. The charity was initially launched in Australia in 2008 and was formally launched in New Zealand on 31 October 2019. The launch of the programme can be seen as a direct response to the concerning mental health statistics in the industry.

For example, a 2019 BRANZ report Suicide in the NZ Construction Industry Workforce indicates that in the year to June 2019, 6.9 per cent of working age male suicides were in the construction industry, meaning the industry has the highest proportion of suicides across all industries in New Zealand. Since the launch of the programme in Australia, construction industry suicides have fallen by 8 per cent.

How does MATES in Construction seek to respond to mental health issues facing the industry?

MATES in Construction was established in an effort to alleviate such alarming statistics and a culture of ‘toxic masculinity', aiming to:

  • provide skills that encourage workers to initiate discussions with someone who may be struggling on-site or even in the community,
  • establish worker support for mates in the workplace, and
  • encourage workers to understand the signals, open communication channels, and to be familiar with the idea that suicide is everyone’s business.

These aims are achieved through a programme created by the MATES team, which can be rolled out on construction sites across the country.

As a general overview, the MATES programme:

  • begins with a one-hour General Awareness Induction for all workers on a site,
  • continues with four-hour ‘connector' training for individuals on site who wish to assist another person in need while connecting them with professional help, and
  • concludes with ASIST training – a two-day course for individuals who wish to gain the skills required to talk to a person who is considering suicide and learn how to respond to this situation with the intention of formulating a ‘safe plan' with the worker.

Where is MATES in Construction being rolled out first?

Initially, the programme will launch on five large commercial construction sites in the Auckland area. These include the Commercial Bay office and retail development, the Pacifica apartments and hotel, the Sylvia Park shopping centre expansion, Westfield Newmarket, and 10 Madden Street.

The intention is that the programme will be rolled out to construction sites outside of Auckland once the initial programmes have been launched.

Interested in finding out more?

If you are interested in finding out more about MATES in Construction, please visit their website.

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