(Australian Associated Press)
Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than from a workplace accident.
Hoping to save lives, new research released by the University of South Australia on Thursday has identified possible causes in an industry already fraught with danger.
Every year 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own lives – that’s one worker every second day, lead researcher at UniSA Simon Tyler said.
Mr Tyler is working with the industry body Mates in Construction to understand why workers are struggling with mental health, and has identified 26 potential drivers of suicide.
Part of the problem is the highly transient work, with most employed on a project-by-project basis so there is little opportunity to build networks of support or friendships.
“Another issue is persistent stereotypical concepts of masculinity, which can have a big impact on mental health,” he said.
He said unhelpful masculine attitudes and behaviours can result in bullying, which can escalate over time.
“When workers put up strong exteriors to detract from their issues or insecurities, they’re also shielding themselves from supports.”
By examining these and other potential “stressors”, including work hours, job demands and regulations, he hopes to develop best practice approaches to reduce rates of suicide.
UniSA is also launching a mental health research fund.
Ahead of RUOK? Day on Thursday, September 9 and World Suicide Prevention Day on Friday, UniSA mental health expert Nicholas Procter is reminding everyone to play their part.
While industry figures show the building and construction sector is an economic powerhouse amid COVID-19, he is concerned its workers are struggling.
“Asking important questions, such as ‘Are you OK’ can certainly interrupt the suicide trajectory,” Prof Procter said.
Even casual conversations or “touchpoints” with people at home, work or in the community can make a difference.
“We might just give some support to a person in distress.”
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