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MATES in Construction invests into early intervention research

MATES in Construction is investing in research that aims to help determine who distressed construction workers first turn to and where they end up, enhancing opportunities for early intervention.

Each year, 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own lives. Construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than an accident at work, and young workers are well over two times more likely to take their own lives than other young Australian men.

The research project began with 30 construction workers in Brisbane talking about what emotional distress looks like for people in their industry.

Led by Carla Meurk from the University of Queensland, 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.

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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 provide valuable information about the nexus between individuals in distress and where they first turn to for help.

MATES in Construction (QLD/NT) CEO Jorgen Gullestrup says 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.

“This project will provide the industry with a better understanding of the touchpoints between distressed workers and atypical sources of support,” Gullestrup said.

“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,” he said.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

MATES in Construction: 1300 642 111

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