Over 200 construction sites around the country were flying flags during the week starting 7 September to mark World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September).
Fly the Flag is a campaign through which the construction industry can recognise that it has a major problem with suicide in the industry, and can demonstrate how construction companies and workers are collectively coming together to make change. It’s run in New Zealand by Mates In Construction, an organisation established to combat the high rate of suicide among construction industry workers.
Mates In Construction chief executive officer Victoria McArthur says the construction industry has the highest rate of suicide among workers of any commercial sector in New Zealand. “One of our goals is to build a stronger, more resilient workforce in a bid to prevent suicide. Fly the Flag helps us spread the message about suicide prevention and encourages everyone in our industry to support their mates.”
Ms McArthur says there is a commonly held view that suicide is usually a consequence of a mental health issue. “That’s not the case. Suicide is a behaviour, not an illness, and over half of those lost to suicide have not presented with any prior mental illness.
“Many people feel suicidal because they feel their lives are unravelling and they are in an unbearable situation. The better and more widely that is understood, the better ways can be found to prevent those with immediate thoughts of suicide of acting on them.”
SHARING THE MESSAGE
Ms McArthur says the increase in demand for construction work in recent years, and the incredible pressures to meet deadlines while adhering to tight budgets, have created a working environment that takes its toll on the industry.
“Flying the flag to recognise World Suicide Prevention Day shows our industry knows we all need to work collectively, to not only start the conversations about mental health and suicide prevention, but also to know what to do if a mate is struggling.”
McArthur says Fly the Flag is an outward display to the broader community about the important work the industry does every day to improve mental health and prevent suicide. She says the message is about taking the time out of your day to remind each other to recognise when your mates may be struggling.
“Fly the Flag is about sharing the message that we are committed to looking out for our mates!”
ABOUT MATES IN CONSTRUCTION
Mates is a free programme that was established in New Zealand late last year to support the mental health and wellbeing of people in the construction sector, and address and reduce the number of workers in the industry that are lost to suicide.
Mates’ principal role/mission is to raise awareness about suicide as a preventable problem and support good mental health in the workplace; build stronger and more resilient worksites; connect workers to the best possible help and support; and partner with researchers to inform industry about best practice in mentally healthy workplaces.