The challenge of suicide in the construction industry

Oct 29, 2014

Construction workers are more than twice as likely to suicide as other people in Australia. One of the challenges for the industry is employment security, with many workers hired on a project-by-project basis, which could last from several weeks or, if they’re lucky, to a few years. There also remains a stigma in the industry about men reaching out and seeking help.

The statistics around suicide in the construction industry are confronting. According to ‘MATES in Construction’, a charity set up in 2008 to address the issue, construction workers are more than twice as likely to suicide as other people in Australia; construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than through a workplace accident; apprentices in construction are two and a half times more likely to suicide than other young men their age.

The construction industry employs more than 625,000 people across Australia, making it one of the biggest employers in the country.

According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on mental health in the workplace, during the past 12 months 25.1% of workers in the construction industry were shown to have had a mental health condition. Also, 8.9% of construction workers have a condition affecting their mood, such as depression – which is considered one of the risk factors for suicide. An evidence review focusing on male-dominated industries commissioned by beyondblue indicates workers in the construction industry may have elevated prevalence rates of depression and anxiety.

What’s encouraging is that organisations such as MATES in Construction have been active in tackling the issue through workplace programs to help bring about change. These programs include on-site training to make cultural change, a 24/7 help line, field officers and case managers to support workers, and counselling services.

At a higher level, managers and business leaders can take action to promote good mental health practices and policies in their workplaces. To encourage this, beyondblue recently launched Heads Up, a joint initiative with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (MHWA). Business leaders can sign up for a Heads Up Action Plan, which can be tailored for an organisation’s size, industry, needs and goals in the area of mental health.

Signing up and developing a Heads Up Action Plan can not only help promote the mental health of employees, but also boost a business’ bottom line. The recent PwC report estimated that Australian businesses were losing $10.9 billion annually for neglecting to address mental health in the workplace.

However, businesses that take action will, on average, experience a return of $2.30 for every $1 invested in initiatives that foster better mental health in the workplace. In the construction industry, the return is even higher – and average of $2.50 for every $1 invested.

Create better workplace mental health: register with Heads Up

Strategies for creating a mentally healthy workplace can be developed by going toheadsup.org.au where you can also prepare a tailored Heads Up Action Plan for your business. 


Heads Up on LinkedIn

If you would like more information and resources about how to create a more mentally healthy workplace, please visit our LinkedIn company page, which is regularly updated with stories and links related to the issue.

If you would like to join the discussion about a mentally healthy workplace, please visit our LinkedIn group page and become part of the conversation.

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