"MATES in Construction" looks to decrease suicide rates in construction

By Mare Haimona-Riki
Field Officer Justin Geange teaches from experience - Photo / File

“MATES in Construction” was launched for the first time in Aotearoa today.  With 47 of the 685 suicides last year coming from the construction sector, the programme seeks combat suicide in the industry by focusing on healthy communication channels and a change of on-site-culture regarding mental illness.

Justin Geange (Ngāti Rahiri) is one of the current field officers for the 11-year-old-programme, and says there are many reasons that contribute to men in the industry resorting to taking their own lives:

“We work ourselves into unemployment, we are one of the few industries in the world, that we get to the end of the job and go, yeah we finished the work, and then oh no we got no job to go to."

Richie Hepi is one of the newest field officers for "MATES in construction." -  Photo / File

Since its launch in 2008. The Australian based programme has reached over 160,000 workers and have seen an 8% reduction in suicide rates. 

"We are rolling out on to five sites in Auckland area but it will be that everyone on-site will go thought he training it doesn’t matter if you’re the client or the labourer on the site, the entire family of that site will go through mates in construction training," says MATES general manager, Victoria McArthur.

Richie Hepi (Te Arawa) is one of the newest field officers, giving his first training today to a work-site in the Auckland CBD. 

“We just want people to be aware of suicide in construction, males talking to males, it's hard, and that's a big thing and I'm drawn to this kaupapa.”