The traditionally macho industry generally sees blokes toughing it out and dealing with their issues alone, often using alcohol and substance abuse to hide the pain.
These feelings of being overwhelmed, seeing no way out, and a sense of hopelessness can lead to dark thoughts, which may tip a vulnerable person over the edge in times of crisis.
Site Safe has released the Suicide in New Zealand’s Construction Industry Workforce report, reviewing 10 years’ of coroners reports of construction industry workers taking their own lives. It found that 32% of all cases were related to workplace pressures such as:
Mental illness causes more work impairment and days of work lost than many other chronic conditions. The most recent Southern Cross Health Society and Business NZ Workplace Wellness Report estimated 7.4 million workdays were lost through absenteeism in 2018.
Off the back of these stats, the construction industry has launched an on-site programme called Mates In Construction, encouraging tradies to talk about their issues, rather than toughing it out alone. The programme aims to provide skills that will help workers to:
The “harden up” mentality so prominent in the construction industry can make it hard to reach out for support. This programme helps employers to establish a healthy, supportive environment at the workplace, starting with a simple premise:
Worksite bullying is also covered in the programme because the words you say in passing can often have a long-term negative affect on someone who is already struggling.
Being mindful of mental health on the job can take courage. It might mean opening up and letting your workmates know you’re going through hard times, or reaching out to a mate when you see someone who’s struggling.
Outside of the workplace, men’s groups offer positive support environments where men can open up to one another organically, without the stigma of being judged by co-workers. These groups gather through churches, community centres, sports groups or mates, and offer an important outlet for those who don’t have a supportive workplace or home environment. And if things don’t improve then medical advice may be the best option.
On the worksite, if you notice someone doing it tough, instead of saying “she’ll be right mate”, find an opportunity to start the conversation; take them aside on the site or give them a call and start the conversation with “are you OK?”
For more information search for the Southern Cross Health Society and Business NZ Workplace report.
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