Our Partnership With Mates in Construction – Supporting Australian Construction Workers

Construction worker using tools

Building a livelihood in industries such as construction, mining and industry can be the foundation for mateship, lifelong skills and a sense of purpose. Contributing to making a family home or hospital possible, or ensuring that the country gets the resources it needs to function can all be part of a fulfilling and long-term career.

Making sure that your mental health is safeguarded along the way means that you can keep working towards your goals – and supporting others along the way. Sadly, people working in trades often report complex and poor mental health – a survey by the Black Dog Institute showed that one in four construction and utilities workers had high levels of depression and anxiety, risks far beyond the average population. Another quarter of those who needed mental health support never accessed it.

Stigma around reaching out and talking about your emotions – being self-reliant or ‘tough’ can stop someone from realising that they are in pain, and deserve a helping hand. Across all roles in the sector, the likelihood of having your mental health affected by your work is higher.

Those working in construction, mining and energy are also at a much higher risk of self-harm and suicide than those working in other industries. Mates in Construction, an advocacy organisation in partnership with ACA, puts this down to the transient nature of the job – working on short-term projects across different locations, with changing colleagues and long working hours stopping someone from reaching out for help when they need it. MATES believes that “improving mental health and preventing suicide is everyone’s business” and champions suicide prevention and mental health awareness throughout Australia.

In particular, those who work in the FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) sector may benefit financially, but working away from home, loved ones and support networks can hurt your wellbeing in more ways than one. FIFO workers are at much higher risk of mental distress according to the WA Mental Health Commission for many reasons – tough rosters, loneliness, bullying and workplace culture being some.

But work doesn’t have to be a cause for mental distress.

Talking to someone, such as a trusted qualified counsellor, could make the difference between a bad day and a good one. A registered counsellor, which you can find through the Australian Counselling Association, is a mental healthcare professional who can help you through tough situations and life stresses in a confidential and safe space.

Finding a qualified counsellor through ACA’s Find a Counsellor directory is easy, and most do not have a waitlist. This means you can talk to someone soon about the pressures inside your head, and make sure you’re looking after yourself.

Counsellors are also available to chat over the phone, meaning you can call someone when on site or interstate for work without needing to wait to attend a clinic. Even if it’s something you see as small, it could make a big difference to those waiting for you at home to know that you’re managing these thoughts in a supported and safe way.

For FIFO workers in particular, looking after your health can make all the difference when spending weeks away from loved ones and routines. Being able to speak about what’s going on for you is crucial to making sure you can come home feeling good and able to continue working.

Workplace health and safety is not just physical – it is also looking after your mental health when times are tough.

 

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