Initiative tackling sobering suicide rate among ACT tradies

Initiative tackling sobering suicide rate among ACT tradies

The rate of suicide in the construction industry is more than double that of the general population, due in part to a “stiff upper lip” culture.
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Canberra-based foundation OzHelp is tackling that sobering statistic through on-site health assessments and training programs.

The foundation, along with founding member Master Builders ACT, signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday, cementing a commitment to provide free mental health services to all members of the industry.

Master Builders ACT executive director Kirk Coningham said OzHelp was founded 15 years ago following the suicide of a young construction worker.

“We realised there wasn’t adequate support so we established OzHelp to bring those essential support services through into our industry,” Mr Coningham said.

“We know that [suicide] particularly impacts young men and it particularly impacts our industry where there’s been a bit of a culture of ‘toughen up, stiff upper lip and get on with it’.

“We’ve still got a long way to go, but we are breaking down those barriers.” Related: Master Builders ACT calls for safety hotlineRelated: Mental health funding focused on crisis, not preventionRelated: The suicide scourge among Australia’s tradies

One of OzHelp’s flagship programs is the Tradies Tune Up program, an on-site, 20-minute health assessment covering diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure, in addition to mental health.

OzHelp chief executive Tony Holland said a holistic approach to physical and mental health is well received by workers and allows more people to reach out for help.

“Given the right circumstances they will open up,” Mr Holland said.

OzHelp will refer participants to counselling or other health services after the assessment.

Civil engineering company Guidelines ACT has used OzHelp for nine years and managing director Nick Zardos said it has been a huge help for his 60 employees.

“We get OzHelp to reach out to every one of our employees every year,” Mr Zardos said.

“It gives them an opportunity to talk to someone if they have problems.

“They know we don’t have anything to do with OzHelp, we just provide the connection.”

Mr Holland said the foundation, which is funded by the ACT government, is available to anyone within the building industry from plumbers and electricians, right through to hardware store employees.

“It’s growing, it’s developing and we want the building industry to know we’re here for them.”

All members of the industry and their families can call OzHelp on 1300 694 357 for support.

Support is also available through Lifeline on 13 11 14.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.