Workplace wellness and suicide prevention: a case for focusing on the building and construction industry
by Liesje Donkin
in News
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Workplaces are an ideal opportunity to address mental health issues and suicide related behaviours with the majority of individuals who die by suicide likely to be in the workforce.  In NZ over a 5-year period, the majority of men in the 25-65-year-old age group who died by suicide were in the workforce making this an opportunity for intervention

Why the building and construction industry?

The construction and building industry have been identified as a vulnerable area with significant concerns around suicide. Recent findings from the NZ Mortality Review Committee on suicide deaths in working age men (25-64 years) identified males in the construction and trade area had the highest suicide rates of any occupational group (6.9%). High suicide rates in the construction industry are also reported in other countries such as Australia and the United States.

Factors associated with the high rates of suicide in the construction industry include those related to individuals, the workplace environment and the industry itself.

Industry and workplace issues

  • high industry stress (boom- bust cycle)
  • ‘macho’ culture
  • intolerance of diversityConstruction
  • undervalued career path
  • more informed customers placing higher demands
  • transient working experiences
  • intergenerational issues
  • workplace injuries

Individual factors

  • 1high risk individuals entering workforce
  • mental illness
  • drug and alcohol issues
  • financial and legal problems
  • relationships stressors

What can be done?

Reducing suicide rates in the construction industry requires a multileveled approach that addresses the industry risk factors, promotes factors which increase resilience to stress, identifies and supports vulnerable workers, responds to individuals experiencing suicidal crises and supports their recovery.  Mates in Construction programme (http://matesinconstruction.org.au/) is an Australian based example of a programme addressing this issue with an integrated training and support approach focusing mainly in large construction companies.  However, unlike Australia, the NZ construction workforce is primarily made up of small to medium businesses which is likely to require a modified approach that accounts for their particular needs.

 

What has CASA been doing in this area

CASA has worked with a small-medium building firm to trial an approach to workplace wellbeing/suicide prevention that was tailored to the needs of this group. We received very positive feedback with comments such as:

“Keep up the good work. It makes a difference”

“Great session. It gives you a chance to consider and talk”

Our intention is to continue to focus on this important area to identify opportunities to partner with the industry to further develop targeted approaches that can make a difference.

References

  1. Suicide Mortality Review Committee. 2016. Ngā Rāhui Hau Kura: Suicide Mortality Review Committee Feasibility Study 2014–15. Report to the Ministry of Health, 31 May 2016. Wellington: Suicide Mortality Review Committee.
  2. Bryson, K. & Duncan, A. (2018). Mental health in the construction industry scoping study. BRANZ Study Report SR411. Judgeford, New Zealand: BRANZ Ltd.
  3. Peterson, C., Stone, D., Marsh, M., Schumacher, P., Tiesman, H., McIntosh, W., Lokey, C., Trudeau, A-R., Bartholow, B., Luo, F. (2018). Suicide rates by Major Occupational Group – 17 States, 2012 and 2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol 67 No 45.
  4. Milner, A., Maheen, H., Currier, D., LaMontagne, A. (2017). Male suicide among construction workers in Australia: a qualitative analysis of the major stressors precipitating death. BMC Public Health. 17:584 pp.1-9.
  5. Carson J Spencer Foundation & National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (2015). A Construction Industry Blueprint: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace. Denver, CO: Carson J Spencer Foundation.
  6. Turner, M., Kleiner, B., Mills, T., Lingard, H. (2017) Suicide in the construction industry: it’s time to talk, in F Emuze and M Behm (ed). Proceedings of the Joint CIB WO99 and TG48 International Safety, Health, and People in Construction Conference, Cape Town, South Africa, 11-13 pp. 45-55.
  7. Sunindijo, R & Kamardeen, I. (2017). Antecedents to Mental Health Symptoms in the Australian Construction Industry. In Chan, PW and Neilson, CJ (EDS). Proceeding of the 33rd Annual ARCOM Conference, Cambridge, UK, Association if Researchers in Construction Management, pp. 340-349.