Hato Hone St John, Site Safe mark construction industry partnership
Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 marked a successful 18-month partnership delivering mental health first aid courses to the construction industry by Hato Hone St John and Site Safe NZ.
Hato Hone St John Head of First Aid Training Simon Barnett says at the beginning of 2021 the two organisations redesigned their standard mental health first aid course to produce an additional offering that focuses specifically on mental health challenges in the construction industry.
“The Mental Health First Aid in Construction course covers general mental health causes and effects, but more specifically, it teaches how to recognise signs of someone experiencing poor mental health, which may be symptomatic of depression, anxiety, addiction or even self-harm,” Barnett says.
He says the partnership with Site Safe represents an important and ongoing opportunity for organisations to spread the message of mental health awareness into a male dominated industry not typically known for sharing feelings.
“Hato Hone St John has been delivering the Mental Health First Aid course since August 2018, however the ability to specifically target and reach the construction workforce, who are proven to be at high risk of developing mental health issues, is invaluable.
“This course is part of St John’s continued commitment to improving the health outcomes of all New Zealanders,” Barnett says.
Site Safe chief executive, Brett Murray, is also pleased to be able to highlight and act on issues relating to mental health in the construction industry, saying many are still unaware of the toll mental health can take if early warning signs are left unchecked.
“After the 2019 release of the report into suicide in construction, there was a real ‘what next?’ question in us figuring out how to help our industry deal with the mental health issues that the report had clearly highlighted” he says.
“Eighteen months on, we can see that partnering with St John to develop this course really complements the work Site Safe has been doing itself and with organisations, such as Mates in Construction, who provide a great deal of support already to its members.”
Course attendees say that being able to apply what St John trainers deliver in the classroom to the real-world has provided benefits everywhere.
For instance, construction site manager Joe Hodgson says doing the Mental Health First Aid in Construction course even changed his perception of issues he’d had to deal with in his personal life and, consequently, had been back to his manager to request they get everyone on this course.
“It’s very useful. It doesn’t take too much time out of your day and it’s very interesting. It really opened my eyes up and I could totally relate, and now I fully understand what people go through.”
Hodgson says more people within the construction industry need to improve their knowledge of mental health, especially those like himself who have been in the industry for several decades.
“The construction industry is
just normally ‘harden up’
that sort of thing, and I’ve grown up that way… so it’s just trying to get the old boys and likes of myself out of that mindset and to be a bit more understanding.”
Site office manager Celia Knox says she signed up “to get more tools” to help those around her, after being a connector for Mates in Construction in a previous role.
“I signed up to help some of the team onsite as well as for myself. But it was mainly to help the team and teach them that it’s not too weak to speak, to recognise the signs, to listen to your mates when they say ‘yeah, I’m good or I’m fine’, and to say, ‘wait actually are you?’ and to not be afraid to ask,” Knox says.
Murray says the feedback from the courses has been incredibly encouraging and he would love to see more companies and tradespeople signing up – from large organisations to those who are self-employed.
“My major focus for Site Safe as an industry leader and membership organisation is to work alongside the industry to develop high value products that address key issues the industry is facing. Mental health is certainly one of those issues, and this course is totally aligned to that goal,” he says.