Construction Sector Accord partnership helps resourcing for suicide prevention

The Construction Sector Accord (the Accord) has partnered with MATES in Construction NZ (MATES) to help prevent suicide in the construction sector by supporting them to get their programme out to more people.

The Accord has provided a post-Covid response fund to MATES to help grow the number of field officers and case managers on the ground and enable mental health and suicide prevention programmes to be delivered to sites across the country.

It is vital to have the whole programme embedded into sites, as this builds the capacity of the workers to lead and support one another. MATES then supports the sites through touchpoints such as signposting, checking in with Field Officers, Case Management support and a continued programme of training.

The Accord's partnership with MATES is part of its Health and Safety workstream, delivered though the three-year Construction Sector Accord Transformation Plan.

"We know there is a real issue in the industry, we're fortunate that the Accord has recognised the effectiveness of the MATES programme and the need for it to be delivered more widely," says Victoria McArthur, MATES Chief Executive.

Victoria says the demand for services from MATES is overwhelming for what they can currently supply, and more funding for their programmes is crucial and welcomed.

MATES with assistance from BRANZ has commissioned Otago University to undertake a study to gain more precise research on the issue. The study will look to understand the true prevalence of suicide in the construction industry by occupation and demographics, and then develop appropriate interventions. Findings for the research will be released on June 17th.

In its inaugural year, MATES had the additional challenge of working in a Covid environment – meaning it needed to quickly pivot and provide much-needed mental health support during, and following, the impacts of Covid-19.

"An example of this was The Lunch Room, a virtual chat room for people working in the construction sector wanting to talk about their concerns," says Victoria.

"This service was in high demand throughout lockdown and demand for our services has continued to increase, as awareness about MATES and its prevention programme has grown. The programme is free to all industry workers and includes a helpline service and Case Managers that navigate those struggling into help."

Roger McRae, Accord Steering Group member and Chair at Construction Health and Safety NZ (CHASNZ), says there are encouraging signs that the programme is already working in New Zealand – even though it has only been active since late 2019.

"The MATES programme has clearly resonated with the industry and so far 82 organisations have partnered with MATES to ensure all workers across the industry have access to the programme," says Roger.

"The programme is being rolled out to 176 sites across New Zealand and 9,892 workers have been inducted into the General Awareness Training. MATES has accredited two sites, which means that the site has reached the point where it has built the capacity of its team to be able to support each other.

"The partnership between the Accord and MATES is crucial to keep our workers safe, stay connected and enable people in our sector to know where to reach out, when help is needed," says Roger.

For more information, or to get help, please visit the MATES website(external link).

Last updated: 25 February 2021