Looking after mental health

Agencies and organisations are stepping up to offer better mental health support during the COVID-19 shutdown. Many people in the workforce are already reaching out to MATES in Construction to talk and get help, and other organisations are providing free resources.

The ‘Lunch Room(external link)’ at MATES in Construction is in high demand. The virtual chat room for people working in the construction sector wanting to talk about their concerns has been at capacity every day since it began running in the middle of March. The initiative follows the MATES model of creating safe environments and enabling the workforce to support their workmates.

MATES CEO Victoria McArthur says the Lunch Room provides a valuable space for people to talk with others who are sharing the same worries, and to keep connected to their mates in the industry. Two field officers facilitate each session.

“The sessions have been working really well – participants are talking openly and they can see they are not alone in the way they are feeling. People are obviously finding it helpful as many are coming back to join another chat room.”

She says while the sessions have been very popular, they can still accommodate everyone, including teams of up to ten within an organisation.

If people in the Lunch Room sound like they need further support, Victoria says a case manager will follow up with them to check how they are going, and work through a support plan.

People who would rather talk to someone one-on-one can connect to one of the MATES team for free on 0800 111 315 or text them on 5353. The service is open to anyone who works in the industry, both workers and employers, and is available 24 hours a day.

MATES in Construction launched in New Zealand in October 2019 following the success of the programme in Australia. The MATES approach is based on early intervention and is backed by extensive research into what works best to support the mental health of construction workers and prevent suicides.

The Construction Sector Accord is working with government to help the industry get through the disruption – finding ways to support businesses, maintain jobs and get ready to restart – helping to provide some confidence in the future for both business owners and workers.

Chairman of MATES and CEO of CHASNZ Chris Alderson says, “MATES is working to create better mental health support for our industry and also reduce the number of workers we lose to suicide every year”. MATES is working together with the Accord to support the sector.

“Construction has already been highlighted as an industry where many workers and business owners have poor mental health. Now more than ever people need to stay connected and reach out when they need help.”

Mental wellbeing services and support for the construction sector

MATES in Construction(external link) helpline – 0800 111 315 or text 5353

MATES in Construction Lunch Room(external link) -  Informal chat sessions with others in your team or from other construction organisations.

Engineering NZ - COVID-19: Tips for Engineers(external link) - Tips for working remotely and for staying mentally well during isolation.

General support for mental health

Mental Health Foundation - Looking after mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19(external link). They also have a free and confidential counselling service – call or text 1737.

Ministry of Health - COVID-19: Mental health and wellbeing resources(external link). Links to a range of resources covering mental health and wellbeing, problems with substance use and gambling, and supporting others.

Health Navigator - COVID-19 Care package.(external link) Contains lots of clear and simple information and ideas for staying well during the lockdown.

Depression website(external link) and helpline 0800 111 757.


Last updated: 15 April 2020