Did you know that construction workers:
Are two times more likely to suicide than other people in Australia
Are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident on site
Have higher rates of depression and anxiety than the general population
In fact research suggests that 21% of construction workers have a mental health condition (Milner, 2016) and that apprentices are 2.5 times more likely to die from suicide than other young men their age (AISRAP, 2006).
A report by Milner & Law (2017) outlined the following factors that influence the mental health and high suicide rate amongst construction workers.
Work and employment
While work can be rewarding both financially and socially, it can also present a number of challenges to mental health. Job uncertainty, low job control, excessive work stress, low rewards for work, poor working relationships and bullying and harassment may all contribute to poor mental health on site.
Close and supportive relationships with a spouse or partner can be helpful to construction workers in times of stress. However, research shows that relationship breakdowns in the industry are linked to suicide (Samaritans, 2012). Relationship breakdowns play a bigger role in suicide among construction workers than the rest of the population in QLD (Roche, et al. 2014). Construction workers move from site to site so may lose close relationships and support, making them more vulnerable to mental health issues.
Attitudes towards help seeking
Men are less likely to seek help for mental health issues which is key to getting better (Oliver, Pearson, Coe and Gunnell, 2005). This may be due to lack of education around mental health and where to access support, stigma surrounding people who seek help and beliefs that individuals with mental illness might be discriminated against.
Alcohol and drug use
Alcohol and drug use often highlight pre-existing mental health issues (Burns and Teesson, 2002) and susceptibility to suicide (Wilcox, Conner and Caine, 2004). Men may use alcohol and drugs as a form of self-medication for mental health issues. Alcohol and drug use is therefore common amongst construction workers. Predictors of alcohol and drug use are being younger male, being single, separated, widowed or divorced (Milner and Law, 2017).
Sleep and physical activity
Construction work is associated with tiredness (Hobman, Jimmieson and McDonald, 2010). Working nightshift or long hours may significantly reduce the quality and quantity of sleep and exercise in this industry. Being fit and getting enough sleep is related to better mental health.
In the same report, Milner and Law (2017) recommended a number of strategies to address mental health in the workplace:
Limit exposure to negative experiences in the workplace
Encourage positive aspects of mental health
Make it easier for workers to find information about mental health
Help workers get help and treatment for mental health issues sooner
Psychological support is available online at Net Psychology.
Having previously worked with MATES in Construction, Net Psychology's principal psychologist, Jen Riches, appreciates the unique environment in which people in the construction and mining industries work. She is committed to ensuring that those in the construction and mining industry can access confidential and convenient psychological services.
Making a booking is as simple as visiting the website, finding an available session time that suits you, and completing the required information. You can book online here.
Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP). (2006). Suicide in Queensland commercial building and construction industry: an investigation of factors associated with suicide and recommendations for the prevention of suicide.
Burns L, Teesson M. (2002). Alcohol use disorders comorbid with anxiety, depression and drug use disorders: Findings from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well Being. Drug and Alcohol Dependence; 68(3): 299–307.
Hobman EV, Jimmieson NL, McDonald K. (2010). An Examination of Fatigue in the Construction Industry. University of Queensland, Brisbane: The Centre for Organizational Psychology.
Milner A. (2016). Suicide in the Construction Industry: Report by Deakin University for MATES in Construction. Volume,1. Retrieved on 5 October 2020. https://mates.org.au/media/documents/MIC-Annual-suicide-report-MIC-and-Deakin-University.pdf
Milner and Law (2017). Mental Health in the Construction Industry. Mates in Construction Online summary report. Retrieved on 4 October 2020. https://mates.org.au/media/documents/MIC-QLD-construction-industry-roundtable-report.pdf
Oliver MI, Pearson N, Coe N, Gunnell D. (2005). Help-seeking behaviour in men and women with common mental health problems: cross-sectional study. The British Journal of Psychiatry; 186(4).
Roche AM, Lee NK, Pidd K, Fischer JA, Battams S, Nicholas R. (2014). Workplace mental illness and substance use disorders in male-dominated industries: A systematic literature review. Melbourne: Beyondblue. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/research-projects/research- projects/workplacemental-illness-and-substance-use-disorders-in-maledominated-industries-a-systematic-literature-review.
Samaritans. (2012). Men, Suicide and Society: Why disadvantaged men in mid-life die by suicide. Surrey.
Wilcox HC, Conner KR, Caine ED (2004). Association of alcohol and drug use disorders and completed suicide: an empirical review of cohort studies. Drug and Alcohol Dependence; 76: S11–S9.
Please note: Net Psychology is not a crisis service.
If you or someone else needs urgent support please call the below crisis numbers.
If it is an emergency, call 000.
Lifeline: 13 11 14 Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 MATES in Construction: 1300 642 111 Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732 National Indigenous Critical Response Service: 1800 805 801
National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline: 1800 250 015