Construction sector to look into high suicide rate as company collapses add stress

A construction industry safety organisation has received funding to study why the suicide rate and mental health issues are so high in the sector.

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It’s now rivalling forestry and farming as the industry with the country’s highest suicide rates. Source: 1 NEWS

A study by the Building Research Association last year discovered 6.9 per cent of overall suicides were in the construction industry.

That's slightly higher than the 6.8 per cent in farming and forestry.

So SiteSafe has been given funding to look at the coronial findings of over 300 suicides of construction workers, to see if there are any trends.

Chris Alderson of Construction Health and Safety NZ says they would "certainly like to know more, to know where to apply the right resources and help the people who need it the most".

The recent collapse of a number of building companies, and the fear that more may follow, is adding to the stress.

"There will be people very worried, spending sleepless nights around their future," Mr Alderson said.

Glover Homes owner JD Glover said: "If you come in with a really cheap price and you're being squeezed to get the job done, that's where the stress would just go through the roof."

Mr Glover recalled the case of one construction industry worker.

"He was getting up at dawn and working till dusk to try and get the job done, and still couldn't keep his head above water - mortgage, young family. And unfortunately he committed suicide from it."

One idea is to pilot the Australian programme "Mates in Construction" in New Zealand.

The programme has reached more than 120,000 workers across the Tasman and suicide rates have fallen.

"Someone who is on site might not feel comfortable immediately going to a GP or going to an employee assistance programme. However they might be able to reach out to someone who is right beside them who actually knows a little bit about that," Mr Alderson said.

And in such a male-dominated industry, opening up is also being encouraged.

"Bringing mental health into the light, talking about it, managers and team leaders knowing a little bit about mental health would be good," Mr Alderson said.

Mr Glover said: "Talk about it with everyone so everyone is on the same page."

More talking is likely after the study results are released in May.

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