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Construction Industry Flying The Flag For Suicide Prevention

660 flags will fly over 450 construction sites around the country and the Auckland Harbour Bridge will be lit up for our mates this week as the industry stands up in support of mental health and suicide prevention, says Mates in Construction CEO Victoria McArthur.

MATES in Construction is a suicide prevention charity operating across the construction sector, which takes a worker led approach to delivering onsite training, workshops and support services to increase help seeking and offering amongst the construction workforce. Some MATES field officers have lived experience in the construction sector and all have a deep understanding of the causes of mental distress.

“Our industry has the highest rate of suicide of any industry in New Zealand – we are six times more likely to lose one of our mates to suicide than to a workplace accident, and our suicide rates are twice as high as other industry occupations. In a predominantly male field like ours, there can be a lot of hesitance about talking about mental health.

“That’s why we’ve asked our whole industry to Fly the Flag this week – to send a strong signal that we are prioritising the health and lives of our workmates, that its normal to talk about mental health and that help is available if people reach out. We are also acknowledging and remembering all those mates we have lost to suicide.

“Especially right now, many people are doing it tough in our industry – dealing with the ongoing effects and uncertainty of COVID-19 and the Delta variant, dealing with huge workloads and time pressures. Our frontline workforce is very stressed and we have now seen an additional layer of complexity. I really worry we are at risk of heading into a perfect storm.

“At one of our recent training sessions, we heard from one of our older workers - he spoke about the hardships he was facing, wanting to see his moko but unable to due to these restrictions, and the fear that comes with seeing young ones during this pandemic. We need to keep being there for each other while we get through this.

“That’s why this campaign is important and we’re absolutely thrilled with the response to this campaign from the industry and the public – it shows how strong a community we have. Fly the Flag brings us together as a collective, mates helping mates, stronger together.

“There is a mental health crisis in our construction industry but we can all play our part to build workplaces and communities where we look after our mates, support people who need help, and ask for help ourselves when we need it,” says Victoria McArthur.

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