Constructing Better Mental Health In The Building Trades

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Updated: April 5, 2019

Almost half of all Australian men will have a mental health problem at some point in their life and one in eight will experience depression.

When you consider that the rate of suicide among men in the construction industry, especially lower-skilled employees, is approximately double that of the general male working population, it is easy to see why construction workplaces need to have a focus on mental wellbeing.

With a recent focus on promoting a healthy body and healthy mind, AccessEAP is pro-actively building awareness in some of the more male orientated workplaces where mental health issues are prominent.

“Talking about problems and taking action are proven ways for male construction workers to stay mentally healthy, but it’s still difficult to get them to take that all important first step,” explains Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director at AccessEAP. “Often in male dominated industries, the macho mentality still exists where men are afraid to show weakness, sadness or vulnerability. If men don’t feel like they can open up it can have a detrimental effect on their mental wellbeing. Apprentices in construction are two and a half times more likely to suicide than other young men their age.”

Toolbox Talks

In an effort to raise mental health awareness AccessEAP has introduced toolbox talks. These sessions focus on increasing awareness of mental health issues and helping men to understand that at some point most people need help and that help is available.

Eleni van Delft, Director, Relationship Management at AccessEAP has already provided tailored toolbox talks to organisations in the manufacturing, mining and construction industries and is amazed by the immediate effect it has had on participants. “Often at the beginning of a session, we struggle to get men to talk but by the end, they can be reluctant to leave and I’ve witnessed large-scale discussion amongst participants about issues that may be affecting them in their personal or work life long after the session has ended.

The toolbox talks are not only helping men to reach out for help, but also show them their organisation cares about them and values their wellbeing.”

Men’s priorities tend to change with age and with that comes work commitments, longer hours and the possibility of family commitments.

It is often difficult to keep in touch with friends and invest time in hobbies, which can lead to a lack of social connection. Without someone to talk to about the demands of a stressful job, long hours or family troubles, these everyday stresses can develop into something much more serious.

Managers and employees need to be educated on the behaviours that may indicate a colleague is going through a tough time and learn ways to encourage them to seek help if there is concern for their welfare.

Access EAP offers some tips to help men reach out in times of need:

  • Seeking help is positive for your mental health. It is not a sign of weakness
  • The best health is achieved with looking after both your physical and mental health
  • Make self-care a priority and set goals for sleep, exercise and ‘me’ time
  • Maintain social contact and keep in touch with friends and family
  • Equip yourself with the tools and strategies you need to cope with challenging life events. Start with your EAP and a confidential appointment.
ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results http://www.abs.gov.au/ ausstats/[email protected]/mf/4326.0

Suicide in the construction industry report by MATES in Construction and Deakin University http://micaus.bpndw46jvgfycmdxu.maxcdn-edge. com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/17584-mic-qld-Deakin report-volume-2-297x210mm-v10.pdf

For more information please visit www.accesseap.com.au