A program designed to turn around the very high incidence of suicide in the construction industry is having an impact, according to new research from the University of South Australia.
The report showed that the training and support provided through the MATES in Construction (MIC) program was making it easier for people to discuss problems and share feelings.
Suicide in the construction industry is almost five times higher than in the general population.
The alarming statistic is thought to relate to a range of issues and stresses including the insecurity of work in construction, the prevalence of substance abuse among construction workers, the hyper-masculine environment that has traditionally seen help-seeking as weak, bullying, the stress of long work hours and relationship breakdowns.
Researchers found programs introduced to provide worker education and training around the issues of suicide and suicide prevention were having a real impact, with 50 per cent of the workers surveyed reporting they had used what they had learned at work and in life outside of work.
Lead researcher on the project from UniSA’s Mental Health and Substance Use Research Group, Dr Monika Ferguson says the results are quite promising.
“We found that workers were not only using what they learned in the program to communicate with mates at work, but they were also applying their new knowledge and skills when communicating with their families and loved ones,” Dr Ferguson says.
“It was also useful for them in raising issues around work-related stress. However, fewer participants reported using the training to talk directly about drug and alcohol related issues, financial pressures or suicidal thoughts.”
Dr Ferguson says the MATES in Construction program is not only raising awareness about suicide and issues specific to the construction industry but it is also giving workers the tools to support colleagues who might be struggling with the mental health issues and stresses that can lead to suicide.
“Our evidence shows that this program is achieving the desired effect,” Dr Ferguson says.
“It also supports the notion that expanding the program and diversifying the content so that it has meaning in various work and cultural contexts may be of benefit.”
Read more about the MIS program here. Story credit: University of South Australia newsroom.
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