Ministry of Education, MATES in Construction work together for suicide prevention

Ministry of Education is partnering with MATES in Construction to help reduce the high construction worker suicide rates and improve the mental health of construction workers in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Scott Evans, Leader (Hautū) Infrastructure and Digital, says the construction industry is losing nearly one person every week to suicide. Pressures due to the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 adds to the challenges many people face.

In the industry wellbeing survey conducted by MATES in Construction earlier this year, 43 percent of the respondents say their mental health worsened during the pandemic.

Scott Evans says this is an alarming concern that needs to be addressed immediately.

“As one of the agencies that work closely with the construction sector, it is crucial for us to help do something about this important issue. We work alongside them every day as they help us build safe and fit for purpose learning spaces for our rangatahi, so we are in a strategic position to proactively extend the help and support they need.”

The Ministry has signed a two-year partnership with MATES in Construction to implement a programme that can help provide a work environment that supports and encourages positive wellbeing for our construction partners.

MATES in Construction will enlist field officers who can visit school construction sites to build the programme into the workplace. They will lead general mental health and wellbeing education sessions for the workers on site. They’ll also train and guide volunteers who are keen to help promote a mentally healthier workplace and offer relevant support.

The programme will initially be implemented in school construction sites in Wellington and Auckland, and eventually be rolled out across the country.

Scott Evans says it aims to make the profession in construction safer for future generations.

“We know that there are many young people out there who are keen to pursue work in construction. This initiative helps make sure that we are setting up a safe work environment for them to thrive.”

Victoria McArthur, Chief Executive Officer of MATES in Construction New Zealand, says the programme is a significant leadership move from the Ministry of Education.

“The MATES programme is a community development model delivered in a workplace setting. It will bring together the whole site, enabling everyone to support their mates and know how to connect into help when needed. We are thrilled to be welcoming the Ministry of Education as a foundation partner, and we’re looking forward to working alongside them across their programme of works.”

Marking the official launch of this partnership, Scott Evans and Victoria McArthur visited the construction site at Wellington East Girls’ College today to join our construction workers’ ‘Fly the Flag’ activity. This ceremonial event is in support of MATES in Construction’s nationwide campaign to promote suicide prevention in construction workplaces.

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