The construction industry has higher rates of suicide – here’s what people are doing to help – Newcastle Herald

Posted: July 9, 2020 at 5:08 pm


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Beau Morrison has seen a lot of suicide in his life. When he was 12, his father Len took his life. His cousin Dolly Everett made national headlines in 2018 when she took her life at age 14, after being tormented by cyberbullies. And three workmates in the construction industry have taken their lives. One of these workmates died during a fly-in, fly-out project in Darwin. Mr Morrison was asked to check on his welfare as he hadn't shown up for work. "I found his body," said Mr Morrison, of Chisholm in Maitland. He tried to convince management to provide more support for workers. "I was banging on asking, 'Where are the support services?' Management thought I was a dickhead." The complaints he made about the lack of support means he probably won't get work again with the company involved. This kind of attitude and culture, he asserts, must change. Mr Morrison said the loss of his dad, cousin and workmates had been devastating. "I want to do everything to prevent this from happening to others," he said. His cousin's death came in January 2018, a month before his workmate died in Darwin. These events motivated him to learn more about mental health. He decided to devote himself to suicide prevention. Mr Morrison is now getting behind a NSW government project in which "gatekeepers" in high-risk populations and industries train in suicide prevention. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the NSW government would provide $2.8 million for gatekeeper training over three years. The funding is the first initiative of the government's Towards Zero Suicides project, which will provide $87 million over three years. The project aims to reduce the suicide rate in NSW by 20 per cent by 2023. The government said about 17 people take their life in NSW every week. "Gatekeepers learn how to recognise the signs that someone is at risk of suicide," Mrs Taylor said. They are trained to help workmates, friends and family to stay safe and seek help. Mr Morrison said 18 workers died from suicide in three years on the Darwin project alone. Many more were experiencing poor mental health. "I had grown men coming to me and bawling their eyes out. I didn't know what to do," he said. When Mr Morrison left the Darwin job in 2018, he sought mental health training through the Mates in Construction program - an industry-backed and research-based suicide prevention charity. "I learnt so much. It blew me away," he said. In the past 18 months, he's helped half a dozen people in trouble. "They were friends of friends. I talked them through it," he said, adding that the first thing he advises is to see a GP. NSW government data shows that construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than a workplace accident. Apprentices in construction aged between 15 and 24 are twice as likely to take their life than other young people their age. Mr Morrison urged construction companies to treat mental health training like high-risk licences such as "getting your forklift ticket". He said some construction companies provide mental health support through employee assistance programs. "The job in Darwin had one, but it was insufficient. We didn't have people drumming in the importance of mental health. We didn't know who we could go to." In his experience, unions can be a big help in this area. "They have their own support processes. I'm with the CFMEU. They've always provided me with help," he said, adding that he had his own personal struggles. Mr Morrison saw a doctor on Wednesday to renew his mental health plan. "You can't ignore this stuff. You've got to be proactive with your mental health," he said. Master Builders Association of NSW said the construction industry had "significantly higher rates of suicide and mental health issues among workers compared to other sectors". "Mental health and suicide prevention is everyone's business," Master Builders NSW executive director Brian Seidler said. "When all of us look out for our mates, we are protecting the most important commodity in our industry - its people." Mr Seidler said suicide "seems to be a part of the reality in the building and construction industry". "The sector is highly transient with most workers employed on a project-by-project basis for periods from a few weeks to a few years," he said. "We need to ensure the industry represents a sustainable and safe workplace." This means attracting workers and keeping them on career pathways. "Mental health training is a critical part of that." Mr Morrison said his experience in the industry had given him an idea of what triggered workers' mental health difficulties. "In my opinion, a lot of the time it's relationship breakdowns, blokes having their kids taken away, long hours and isolation," he said. Another factor was workers in "high-paying jobs with access to drugs and alcohol". The construction industry's macho culture was thought to be a factor in preventing workers from seeking help. This is one area in which Mr Morrison is making a difference. Despite his appearance, he has a deeply felt compassion that he uses to help others. Despite being a "big burly knucklehead", he often asks fellow workers things like: "Hey, bud, how are you going? Are you all right?" He said mental health issues were also prevalent among women in construction. Mr Morrison said he was "stepping up" to be a leader on mental health. "I want to continue down the road and get into public speaking [to further spread this message]." Mrs Taylor said every "precious life lost to suicide" had a "devastating ripple effect across families and the whole community". "We know that over 40 per cent of people who die by suicide have not reached out for professional support. "Having gatekeepers throughout the community trained to help and support people in a crisis is critical in saving lives." The Gatekeeper program aims to train 10,000 people in suicide prevention. More than half of all gatekeepers will be in regional areas. As well as construction, the program will cover first responders, Indigenous communities, family lawyers, men aged 18 to 35, veterinarians and LGBTI communities. More information about the program is at health.nsw.gov.au/gatekeeper. Lifeline 13 11 14. While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here IN OTHER NEWS:

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Beau Morrison has seen a lot of suicide in his life.

When he was 12, his father Len took his life.

His cousin Dolly Everett made national headlines in 2018 when she took her life at age 14, after being tormented by cyberbullies.

And three workmates in the construction industry have taken their lives. One of these workmates died during a fly-in, fly-out project in Darwin.

Mr Morrison was asked to check on his welfare as he hadn't shown up for work.

"I found his body," said Mr Morrison, of Chisholm in Maitland.

He tried to convince management to provide more support for workers.

"I was banging on asking, 'Where are the support services?' Management thought I was a dickhead."

The complaints he made about the lack of support means he probably won't get work again with the company involved.

This kind of attitude and culture, he asserts, must change.

Mr Morrison said the loss of his dad, cousin and workmates had been devastating.

"I want to do everything to prevent this from happening to others," he said.

His cousin's death came in January 2018, a month before his workmate died in Darwin.

These events motivated him to learn more about mental health.

He decided to devote himself to suicide prevention.

Mr Morrison is now getting behind a NSW government project in which "gatekeepers" in high-risk populations and industries train in suicide prevention.

Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the NSW government would provide $2.8 million for gatekeeper training over three years.

The funding is the first initiative of the government's Towards Zero Suicides project, which will provide $87 million over three years.

The project aims to reduce the suicide rate in NSW by 20 per cent by 2023. The government said about 17 people take their life in NSW every week.

"Gatekeepers learn how to recognise the signs that someone is at risk of suicide," Mrs Taylor said.

They are trained to help workmates, friends and family to stay safe and seek help.

Mr Morrison said 18 workers died from suicide in three years on the Darwin project alone. Many more were experiencing poor mental health.

"I had grown men coming to me and bawling their eyes out. I didn't know what to do," he said.

When Mr Morrison left the Darwin job in 2018, he sought mental health training through the Mates in Construction program - an industry-backed and research-based suicide prevention charity.

"I learnt so much. It blew me away," he said.

In the past 18 months, he's helped half a dozen people in trouble.

"They were friends of friends. I talked them through it," he said, adding that the first thing he advises is to see a GP.

NSW government data shows that construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than a workplace accident. Apprentices in construction aged between 15 and 24 are twice as likely to take their life than other young people their age.

Mr Morrison urged construction companies to treat mental health training like high-risk licences such as "getting your forklift ticket".

He said some construction companies provide mental health support through employee assistance programs.

"The job in Darwin had one, but it was insufficient. We didn't have people drumming in the importance of mental health. We didn't know who we could go to."

In his experience, unions can be a big help in this area.

"They have their own support processes. I'm with the CFMEU. They've always provided me with help," he said, adding that he had his own personal struggles.

Mr Morrison saw a doctor on Wednesday to renew his mental health plan.

"You can't ignore this stuff. You've got to be proactive with your mental health," he said.

Master Builders Association of NSW said the construction industry had "significantly higher rates of suicide and mental health issues among workers compared to other sectors".

"Mental health and suicide prevention is everyone's business," Master Builders NSW executive director Brian Seidler said.

"When all of us look out for our mates, we are protecting the most important commodity in our industry - its people."

Mr Seidler said suicide "seems to be a part of the reality in the building and construction industry".

"The sector is highly transient with most workers employed on a project-by-project basis for periods from a few weeks to a few years," he said.

"We need to ensure the industry represents a sustainable and safe workplace."

This means attracting workers and keeping them on career pathways.

"Mental health training is a critical part of that."

Mr Morrison said his experience in the industry had given him an idea of what triggered workers' mental health difficulties.

"In my opinion, a lot of the time it's relationship breakdowns, blokes having their kids taken away, long hours and isolation," he said.

Another factor was workers in "high-paying jobs with access to drugs and alcohol".

The construction industry's macho culture was thought to be a factor in preventing workers from seeking help.

This is one area in which Mr Morrison is making a difference.

Despite his appearance, he has a deeply felt compassion that he uses to help others.

Despite being a "big burly knucklehead", he often asks fellow workers things like: "Hey, bud, how are you going? Are you all right?"

He said mental health issues were also prevalent among women in construction.

Mr Morrison said he was "stepping up" to be a leader on mental health.

"I want to continue down the road and get into public speaking [to further spread this message]."

Mrs Taylor said every "precious life lost to suicide" had a "devastating ripple effect across families and the whole community".

"We know that over 40 per cent of people who die by suicide have not reached out for professional support.

"Having gatekeepers throughout the community trained to help and support people in a crisis is critical in saving lives."

The Gatekeeper program aims to train 10,000 people in suicide prevention.

More than half of all gatekeepers will be in regional areas.

As well as construction, the program will cover first responders, Indigenous communities, family lawyers, men aged 18 to 35, veterinarians and LGBTI communities.

More information about the program is at health.nsw.gov.au/gatekeeper.

While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here

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The construction industry has higher rates of suicide - here's what people are doing to help - Newcastle Herald

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July 9th, 2020 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Mental Attitude