Mental health and suicide prevention program MATES in Construction has launched in the Northern Territory to support the construction, mining and energy industries.
The program brings employers and employees together to tackle the issue of suicide, which is particularly prevalent within the construction industry, and connect struggling workers with existing support services.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australian men between 15 and 44 years of age and the NT has the highest suicide rates in the country.
MATES in Construction research has found suicide rates amongst NT construction workers are 104 per cent higher than for other employed men in the NT. The same research demonstrated that suicides amongst NT construction workers is happening at a much younger age than amongst other Territorians.
The program has already trained 160,000 construction workers, 8400 mine workers and almost 6000 energy workers to recognise the signs when workmates are struggling with mental health issues and connecting them with help.
MATES in Construction NT CEO Jorgen Gullestrup said it is not acceptable that suicide rates are much higher amongst blue-collar men in Australia. “Suicide is preventable, that’s why we must work to lower these terrible statistics,” he said.
Over its first five years of operation in Queensland, MATES in Construction has been associated with a 7.9 per cent reduction in construction suicides.
“That’s four lives saved in Queensland every year – that is a lot of pain and suffering prevented,” Mr. Gullestrup said.
“This of course doesn’t count the many hundreds of workers with whom lifesaving conversations were had and didn’t get to the point of suicide.
“We are convinced we can do the same in the Northern Territory construction, mining and energy industries,” he said.
NT Minister for Primary Industry and Resources Paul Kirby welcomed the arrival of the program at its launch.
“The Territory Government is working hard to reduce suicide levels in the NT – we currently have our NT Mental Health Strategic Plan out for consultation – and we look forward to working closely with MATES staff as this program rolls out to address the concerning rates of suicide among Territory construction, mining and energy employees,” he said.
“People working in these industries have been identified as a priority group within the NT’s current Suicide Prevention Implementation Plan 2018-2023 and we believe this proven multi-tiered model can play a crucial role in the wellbeing and mental health safety of the Territory’s workforce.”