They are sobering statistics but every two days in Australia a construction worker commits suicide. Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than through a workplace accident.
The physically demanding work, long commutes and even longer work hours make maintaining social support difficult. Additionally, personal protective equipment on the job site including masks, goggles and hard hats can make it difficult to gauge if your work mate is ok.
While it can be difficult having conversations with someone you suspect may be struggling with mental health, it is important in mental health diagnosis and in a workmate’s recovery process. It is just as important for the worker to have open conversations with their manager and work mates without the fear of discrimination or stigma that mental health conditions can carry.
For a workmate or employer concerned about a worker’s mental health, here a few tips to initiate a positive mental health conversation:
- Before you commence a conversation around mental health think about what you will discuss and ways that you can respond to your workmate. Remember, while you can’t fix things, you can you help. Consider the following prior to starting the conversation:
- Read quality, evidence-based information about mental health conditions
- Find out what support is available through the workplace. If there is no availability of support within the workplace, a mental health plan is available through a GP at any time.
- Be sure to confirm that you respect their privacy
- Think about what they may need now and how you can support them
- How you will bring up the topic (I’ve noticed… I’m concerned… etc)
- Be prepared that they may not be ready to have a conversation and you may need to try again at a later date
- Choose an appropriate time to talk
- Be thoughtful and genuine. Ensure your main motive is of concern and support. Remember to say what you feel comfortable with. You may need to stop a sentence and start again to convey your message.
- Actively listen by recalling the main points of the conversation and ask your workmate questions.
- Try to maintain a relaxed body position and appropriate eye contact
- Encourage your workmate to seek help (either through their GP, EAP etc)
- Encourage your workmate to remain socially and physically active and to keep a healthy diet (you can play a role in this part)
- Talk about other topics to let the conversation flow naturally
- Remember to check back in. It may take a number of conversations for some workers to open up about their mental health condition. It is important to always respect your workmates privacy.
For those who may suffer from a mental health condition, or wish to have a conversation regarding their current mental health, consider the following when planning a conversation:
- Where and when will you have this conversation? Do you want a formal meeting or an informal coffee chat?
- Who do you wish to be present? A manager and/or a trusted work colleague? (consider whether you would also like a support person to assist you).
- What will you do if you become distressed or upset during the conversation?
- Consider discussing a planned conversation with close family or friends prior to instigating a conversation at work. This can help you to practice what you will say and how you will say it. Additionally, your trusted family members and friends can provide advice on making the process easier.
- Prepare some dot points or prompts to ensure you cover everything you wish. Headsup has templates available to plan the conversation
Regardless of which seat you’re in, with mental health it is important to have open conversations to reduce any negative stigma and to promote positive mental health for our work mates.
For more information visit:
Mates in Construction: 1300 642 111
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention.