C&L, Cranes & Lifting, Features, Safety

Supporting mental health through Bluehats

Bluehats is a peer support program based on educating and training people to look after and support each other.

Bluehats is a peer support program based on educating and training people to look after and support each other.

The Bluehats project was born out of Commercial construction builders and Unions coming together and acknowledging that the Industry had an issue with poor mental health and suicide. Whilst not exclusive to this industry but simply a reflection of issues impacting the community; the industry decided it needed to do something to protect and support their people.

As Incolink was already the Industries’ wellbeing and support agency, providing outpatient counselling, Critical incident response, Education and Information sessions at Unions and Employers training Centres, tool boxes and many more other services in Victoria and Tasmania; the industry commissioned Incolink to develop a program to facilitate direct support with these issues in an endeavour to reduce the suicide rate amongst the commercial building industry.

Bluehats is a peer support program based on educating and training people to look after and support each other. It consists of 4 tiers.

Tier one:

Incolink engages with employers to train everyone on site with a one hour of general awareness session about good mental health and suicide prevention. These sessions are conducted on site in small groups, no larger than 40 people. The aim of these sessions is to:

1)  Give people general skills to identify and manage stress and signs of suicidality.

2) Induct everyone on site to the Bluehat project and making them aware that the site will now be a Bluehats site equipped with Mental health and suicide first aiders.

3) Give them the opportunity to do a further seven hours training at our head office to become a Bluehat (Mental Health and Suicide First Aider).

Tier two:

Those who volunteer to do the further seven-hour training (this training is in groups of 12 participants only) are upskilled to recognise some of the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and are given skills to ask the suicide question.

During the seven-hour training, the first aiders are trained using an international suicide prevention method developed by Living Works called SafeTALK. A methodology that is not only designed to be used in the workplace; but a skill they can take back to their own community at the footy club, netball club, etc.

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This training focuses heavily on providing a platform for first aiders (Bluehats) to invite people to reach out as well as self-care for those putting their hand up to be first aiders.

Once they complete the seven hours training, they are given a blue hat to wear so they can be easily recognisable on site and approachable by those in need. Their photo is also put on the notice board next to the physical first aiders and HSR’s so everyone knows who they are.

Tied three:

Incolink provides ongoing support to all the Bluehats. It runs a database of all Bluehats who are sent monthly text messages with self-efficacy messages, information regarding topics for the month; events such as Men’s health week, diabetes month, etc for them to spread the message on sites and also continue to look after themselves.

Incolink conducts regular site visits and phone calls to continue to promote and support the program. Bluehats are encouraged to stay in touch with each other as well to promote sustainability of project. Once a year there is a one-day forum where all Bluehats are invited to attend for further development and an opportunity to share some of their stories with their peers.

Tier four:

Incolink is committed to this project and conducts ongoing evaluation and research to ensure that the outcomes of the project are being met.

The two key outcomes are to improve/enhance help seeking behaviour amongst the Industry (particularly men) and essentially reduce the suicide rate in the commercial building industry.

This project target all people working in the commercial building industry, which means both blue collars and white-collar workers. The aim is to ensure that every site in Victoria and Tasmania is a Bluehat site; meaning every single worker in Victoria and Tasmania is given at least a one hour session on the site he or she works on, and that every site has Bluehats (first Aiders) on site.

Since October 2018, Incolink has trained over 5000 workers with the one hour General Awareness Session (GAS) and there are over 250 Bluehats (mental health & suicide first aiders) placed in sites around Victoria and Tasmania with another 200 waiting to be trained.

Please promote the 24/7 crisis support number at 1300 000 129.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

MATES in Construction: 1300 642 111

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