Downer partnership – focusses on mental health

There is little doubt that mental health within the New Zealand construction industry is of critical importance, with a study last year showing the industry faces a suicide rate double that of others.

As a big step in tackling this issue, Downer New Zealand Ltd (Downer NZ) has announced a new partnership with the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand to support the mental health and wellbeing of Downer employees, and to “enable Mental Health Foundation to do more of their great work and reach out to more people”.

“Guided by the Māori concept of te whare tapa whā, which describes wellbeing as including physical, mental, spiritual and family health, we have implemented a range of initiatives in recent years to change the conversation around mental health and support our people and their whanau,” says

Steve Killeen, Downer NZ chief executive officer.

“We’re looking forward to expanding our existing mental health programmes and awareness activities with tailored support from the Mental Health Foundation. This partnership will benefit our 10,000 people and the broader community.”

Downer is a ‘Gold Mental Health First Skilled Workplace’, recognised by Mental Health First Aid Australia and New Zealand. Work to date includes raising awareness about the importance of people caring for their own mental wellbeing, as well as giving them skills to safely and confidently check in with others. Training is provided, and a support network is available and accessible to everyone within the organisation.

Shaun Robinson, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive officer, says that Downer has a proven commitment to mental wellbeing in their workplaces.

“They are strong ‘fellow travellers’ on the journey of positive mental health promotion that is core to our mahi. It is fantastic to be collaborating with them. Downer’s commitment not only provides us with much needed resources to do our vital work, it is also encouraging and uplifting for our team to have such a great supportive relationship. We look forward to more collaboration in the future,” says Robinson.

The partnership will include workshops to give Downer’s staff more tools, plus guidance on how to speak about mental illness and mental health issues safely, accurately, and respectfully, says Jan O’Neill, Downer’s executive general manager of people and culture.

“We want the Downer whānau to know we’re here to help anyone who is struggling,” says O’Neill.

Where to get help:

• 1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.

• Anxiety New Zealand 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)

• 0800 111 757 or text 4202

• Lifeline 0800 543 354

• Mental Health Foundation 09 623 4812

• Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254

• Samaritans 0800 726 666

• Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

• Supporting Families in Mental Illness 0800 732 825

• In a life-threatening situation, call 111.