R U Okay? Day is an annual campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention. It provides educational tools to assist individuals to recognise when someone is not their best self, and to start a conversation with them. This year’s campaign day is the 14th of September and The BUSY Group, strong advocates for healthy workplaces, are urging businesses to get their staff involved and raise awareness.
This is particularly important for workers in the construction industry. Sobering statistics show that the construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicide in Australia, more than twice the industry average. Every year 190 Australians working in construction take their own lives – that is one person every second day. Sadly, construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work.
Mates in Construction, an organisation that educates on the importance of mental health for construction workers, coincide their ‘Fly the Flag’ campaign with R U Okay? Day. The ‘Fly the Flag’ campaign runs over two days on the 13th and 14th of September.
Why is this happening in the construction, mining and energy sectors in Australia? There are several factors contributing. It is largely felt that the industry is highly transient with most workers employed on a project-by-project basis, for periods ranging from a few weeks to, at best, a few years.
Other research has shown that workers find it difficult to discuss feelings and emotions with colleagues at work, and the nature of the work has made social support more difficult. Pride is identified as an issue: male workers have a problem with not being viewed as ‘manly’ when speaking about their feelings. Additionally, participants of the research held a strong belief that suicide was an impulsive act and that someone intending to take their own life would show no signs and not discuss it.
Research conducted in the industry recommended that a campaign designed to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing combined with good gatekeeper training, should be implemented. This is where Mates in Construction has stepped in.
Construction Trainer for BUSY Skills, Chris Scott, has a long-term connection with Mates in Construction. This year, Chris will be leading The BUSY Group to ‘Fly the Flag’ for mental health awareness in the construction industry.
Many years ago, Chris undertook the Mates Connector training which awakened him to mental health issues. He has continued his connection with Mates ever since.
Chris stated, “The training provides simple but effective tools to identify and support those who are struggling, then direct them to support services. It’s as simple as asking ‘is everything ok with you?’ The training is empowering, giving you the confidence to respond to someone in need. Many of us may know when someone is in need, but just not know what to do about it.
“The statistics for the construction industry are quite alarming. We are fortunate that there is growing awareness of mental health issues in our society. This enables us to acknowledge, prepare and support those in need. Through this training, I’ve even become more aware of my own mental health. I can only support someone else effectively if I’m in a good place!
“This training was an awakening to the broad issue of mental health in our society and highlighted how prevalent suicide is in the construction industry. Like many people, I’ve been touched by suicide near me. If we start the conversation, speak openly about our mental health and destigmatise the issue, ourselves, and those around us will benefit. Why wouldn’t we?”
Find out more about Mates in Construction and the Fly the Flag initiative.
Find resources and further information on mental health awareness on September 14, R U Okay? Day
The BUSY Group offices, training centres, and schools are ‘flying the flag’ for Mates in Construction.