Construction workers head off rising concern of suicide in wake of pandemic.
Victoria’s construction industry will be the target of a ramped-up campaign to address the high rate of suicide among the state’s construction workforce, the most at-risk group in the state.
Industry leaders like Incolink CEO Erik Locke say COVID-19 has “played havoc with mental health in the construction industry”, with uncertainty, sudden lockdowns and constantly changing working conditions vastly increasing financial anxiety.
Mr Locke said the Bluehats suicide prevention program will double in size over the next 12 months after there was a 270 per cent increase in presentations of suicidal ideation in the latest available data.
“Suicide affects workers in the Victorian construction industry more than any other workforce with the highest rates of suicide of any worker group,” said Mr Locke.
“About one in four of the men who die by suicide in Victoria work in construction, which means they are 53 per cent more likely to die by suicide than other employed men. It means construction workers are six times more like to die by suicide than other workplace accidents.”
Mr Locke said the industry had to ramp up its efforts to address the high rate of suicide while also adapting its approach in the world of COVID-19.
“We’re going to double the size of the Bluehats suicide prevention program in the next year with a big investment in the program’s expansion, including to address the challenges and lessons from COVID-19.
“When the industry shut down last year, it presented an enormous challenge for our program because it is build-on peer-to-peer contact on site.
“Many of the risk factors that place construction workers at higher risk such as downtime between jobs and social isolation were exacerbated during the pandemic.
“The flip side of that is that we can reach more people now because people are much more engaged online than pre-pandemic.
“Getting to people at risk means being very good at talking to people online, especially if we’re going to reach people whose sites have been shut down or affected, as well as those in regional areas.
“We are doubling the service with more sites to come online, but also making the training and the whole program adaptable to online, so that workers have the tools to talk to others on their worksite.
“The ultimate objective is to get the suicide numbers down and save lives.”
Incolink thanks WorkSafe Victoria and CBUS for their generous support of the Bluehats program. This program is part of the joint commitment of industry and the state government, responding to key recommendations in the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system.