Suicide prevention starts with a helping hand
9 January 2017

Researching suicide rates in the Australian construction industry is a grim business involving university studies, statistical charts, hundreds of graph lines, rising and falling, according to the year and the State or territory. Those lines tell us that 190 of our workmates take their own lives, annually. That construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident on the job. That our youngest recruits are twice as likely to take their own lives compared to other young Australians. Behind those lines are very human stories — of despair, pain and feelings of futility. Human stories that have us all asking, what can we do to help? Thankfully, Mates in Construction, a charity started in 2008, is doing just that. Without their work, the following story might have had a very different ending.

Amy McConnell is the HR & Admin Manager for Total Construction. This is the story of how one phone call to her from a concerned manager, started a chain of events that would change a young man’s life. “One of our on-site contract administrators contacted me to say he’d been approached by a subbie who was concerned that a young lad he had working for him wasn’t in a good place mentally. The subbie wanted to get him some help but didn’t know where to turn.”

Amy immediately contacted the subbie to find out more. “He really felt for this kid and told me how he’d come up against all these family and financial burdens and had started talking about suicide. He was genuinely worried that the young lad might not be able to cope. I just happened to be on Mates in Construction’s two-day ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) course at the time, so rather than freaking out and not knowing how to handle the situation, I was equipped with the information I needed to get this lad the right help.

“I passed all the details on to the staff at Mates in Construction and they had one of their guys contact this lad. I touched base with the subbie a couple of weeks later and he told me that, because of this referral, this young lad is moving forward in leaps and bounds.

“I am so happy that I was able to help, even at arm’s length, and this kid is extremely lucky he had a boss who was willing to seek guidance to get him assistance. Suicide is so rife in our industry, and Mates in Construction’s work is helping all of us help each other.”

If you’d like to know more about how you can make a difference to the lives of someone dealing with suicidal thoughts, don’t be silent. Reach out, ask someone in your management team for help, or contact Mates in Construction directly.

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share on the subject, share them here if you can. The sooner we start talking, the sooner we start saving lives.