Special Feature: R U OK? Day in Construction


We’re an industry steeped in a history of strong men and tough exteriors. It’s these tough walls we’ve all been working hard to break down over the past few years but never so much as this unprecedented year; a year like none of us has ever experienced.

Our team at Conecta discussed at length what to include in this special article about mental health in construction on R U OK? Day 2020.

What we concluded was that it’s time for all of us to stop dancing around the uncomfortable truth and sweeping our gaze over these statistics, all the while hoping ‘someone else’ will deal with the mental health problem in construction.

On top of this pandemic, Victorians are now dealing with the long path of return to ‘Covid’ normal, with no real end in sight.

Many of us have lost jobs, or at the very least job stability, and some of us have devastatingly lost loved ones, and not just to Covid.

So here’s the pre-Covid stats on mental health in construction:

Men who work in construction are 53 percent more likely to die of suicide than other employed men in Australia.

Apprentices in construction are two and a half times more likely to die of suicide than other young men their age.

21% of the construction industry has been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Statistics Source – ChessConnect 

These are truly alarming numbers.

But add to this the year that’s been 2020 and who knows what it means for Australians in construction?

So we share these stats not to scare you, but to MOVE YOU INTO ACTION.

Take care of yourself.

Take preventative measures. 

Talk about how you’re feeling with a trusted mate or co-worker. 

If you need time out, ask for it, 

If you need support, get it.

Ask your family, your mates, your co-workers, “Are you OK?” 

And when they give you the standard Aussie answer “I’m fine, mate”, ask them AGAIN. “Are you sure you’re ok?”

Share your story so others feel comfortable sharing theirs. We know even just talking about our worries can help relieve internal pressure.

And be ready to hear the truth. Be prepared to listen, without judgement or the need to fix the person. Use these tools to learn how to do this if you’re not sure.

In researching this article we talked with our industry partners about how they’ve been supporting their teams during the current climate. 

Use what they’re doing as a springboard of ideas to support your own mental health.

Kapitol Group Initiatives

Kapitol Group is working with local Victorian business, Upstate and running online yoga sessions where the whole team can participate from the comfort of their own homes. 

The company has been promoting the mindfulness app, Smiling Minds and producing inhouse videos to promote the importance of asking ‘are you okay?’ to their colleagues. They are also supporting managers with their EAP Relationship Matters program which focuses on holding ongoing conversations with their peers about their mental health.

Harris HMC Initiatives

HR staff have implemented preventative measures to look after each staff member and train team managers to look after their staff. 

Each month the company has focused on a chosen topic such as Mindful in May, Self-care June and ‘Sleep Month’ where HR has sent staff resources, suggested apps, webinars and statistics that foster awareness and a safer workplace. 

Harris’ HR has also begun routine check-ins with staff which are now more important than ever when staff are working from home.  

Listen to Harris HMC People and Culture Manager, Alice Hanna discuss Harris’ mental health initiatives in our recent interview.

Balmain & Co. Initiatives

Balmain & Co has had a long relationship working with R U OK? And Beyond Blue. To coincide with R U OK? Day this September, Balmain & Co has nominated five of its employees to grow a mullet and raise funds for mental health research. 

In 2020, the company has expanded its workplace resources and now provides free webinars and online content for its employees including their ‘get to know your colleagues’ section in their company newsletter. 

This September, they’ve encouraged their team to stay active and participate in the Strava challenge which sees the team running and riding a bike for a chance to win prizes. Balmain & Co is also donating $1 per/km run and per/10km ridden in September to charity.

Icon Initiatives

Starting from the 7th of September, Icon is running awareness programs all week including hosting keynote speakers to present R U OK? day to their employees. Highlights include;

  • Keynote by: Josh Jones, Founder of The Just Be Nice Project // 11AM AEST
  • Presentation by: Luke Fenwick, Life Impact Couch // 11 AM AEST
  • EVENT: Icon Run Event – an online run via the Strava app.

Hacer Initiatives

Hacer has instigated a weekly theme to keep the team connected and motivated. The company has covered a diverse range of concepts relating to mental health, such as resilience and creativity.

The whole organisation collaborated to develop company-wide touchpoints, including the creation of a Hacer Spotify Playlist and a Hacer Cookbook of family favourites.

These activities have been a reminder for the team to check in with each other and engaging with their EAP provider to hear what tips and tricks they had for us all during this turbulent time.

Nick Bracks

Nick Bracks, Actor & Mental Health Advocate, has partnered with John Holland to implement Mental Health programs within their business and created a mental health podcast. The Move Your Mind Podcast has a particularly interesting episode on sleep benefits for mental health. Listen here.

Here’s some simple things you can do to support your mental health:

Talk truthfully about your worries with someone you trust

Move your body daily

Eat well – fresh food and lots of water

Try for at least 8 hours sleep per night — here are some tips on getting a good night’s sleep

Practice mindfulness or meditation

Speak with a professional

Schedule regular R U OK? check-ins with your friends

Take a break from social media 

Adopt relaxation exercises and make them part of your wind-down routine 

Practice self-care and find out what self-care means for you

Try to limit your daily alcohol intake

We are all in this together. We may each wear our own version of strong on the outside but inside we are soft and vulnerable and we are exactly the same as each other

It’s time we drew a line in the builders sand and decided NO MORE.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing mental hardship there is a range of free supportive services available in Australia.

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