Government provides $1 million to worker suicide prevention group

By Jeff Salton on March 16th, 2017

Depressed construction worker

The Queensland Government is supporting the work of suicide prevention group Mates in Construction (MIC) by providing $1 million funding over the next 18 months. Queensland has around 90,000 construction industry contractor licences.

Industrial Relations Minister in the Palaszczuk Government, Ms Grace Grace, said the funding is to be used to help reduce the tragically high suicide rate in construction by continuing to expand the MIC suicide prevention group’s positive program in many areas of Queensland.

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

While there are many factors that 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, Ms Grace said.

“Mates in Construction is a great organisation making a real difference reducing the high incidence of suicide in the construction industry, particularly among young men,” Ms Grace said.

Average age of suicide in construction is 36 years

“Unfortunately, these young tradies have a suicide rate two to three-times higher than the general community. The average age of suicide among construction workers in Queensland is just 36 years,” she said.

The $1 million contribution from government will help to fund a project that will involve substantial research looking at what motivates construction workers to engage with MIC. The research will specifically look at why someone chose to seek help and why they used MIC, said the group. The findings of the research are expected to help improve the MIC program.

Mates in Construction (MIC) is a charity established in 2008 to reduce the high level of suicide among Australian construction workers. It is owned and controlled by the Australian Building and Construction Industry.

It deals with mental health and suicide prevention issues at a local level, primarily on construction sites and has the support of all stakeholders, including employer organisations and unions.

The group uses on-site training to encourage workers to get help and early intervention through volunteer connectors who are trained in suicide intervention.

MIC claims that currently 109,457 people are trained in its program, and they have collectively managed 5,228 cases. The group operates mainly in NSW, Queensland, WA and SA, and the mining industry, and provides case managers, a national 24-hour telephone helpline, and online counselling.

Ms Grace said the Queensland Government, in partnership with MIC, was looking to educate supervisors and managers to help create mentally healthy workplaces.

“This funding will help Mates in Construction to spread the message to rural and remote areas and also to put more emphasis on engaging with young workers at risk,” Ms Grace said.

For more information about the program, visit the Mates in Construction website.

Not in construction?

Regardless of whether your business operates within or outside of the construction industry, or even if you want additional resources to help create a mentally healthy work environment, if you manage or supervise workers, you need the Portner Press Mental Health at Work eBook. It’s a resource designed to help you identify, further understand and minimise the potential for mental illness in your workplace.

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  • understanding your legal obligations in regard to managing mental illness;
  • identifying mental health risks among your workers;
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