Apprentices at risk of suicide

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May 11, 2020: Suicide Prevention charity MATES in Construction (MATES) has today released expert analysis revealing that up to 30 per cent of Queensland construction apprentices are at risk of suicide.

A study of 1483 Queensland apprentices in October 2019 conducted by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP), Griffith University & MATES found disturbing rates of bullying, poor mental health, and suicide risk. It concluded that roughly 30 per cent of Queensland construction apprentices have experienced workplace bulling, with 20 per cent experiencing frequent and severe bullying.

The research found that 30% of Apprentices had such poor quality of life to indicate depression and 13% were experiencing such high levels of psychological distress that it indicated probable severe mental illness. The report revealed that 34.6% of male and 42.7% of female apprentices had experienced thoughts of suicide in the preceding 12 months.

MATES QLD CEO Jorgen Gullestrup said that although the findings are concerning, they are also unsurprising.

“Male construction workers as a whole are 53% more likely to die from suicide than other employed men in Australia and the age profile of construction suicides is significantly younger than average, so the higher levels of mental distress are unfortunately reflected in our suicide rates,” Mr Gullestrup said.

“I can only fear what will happen to this group of high-risk construction workers as the industry adjusts to COVID-19 and the post-COVID-19 situation. The report showed a clear association between poor mental health and unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse. All these factors colliding regarding apprentices makes for a very dangerous cocktail especially as employment in the industry will be impacted by the post COVID recession.” Mr Gullestrup said.

First year apprentices and those employed in micro business experienced the least amount of bullying, while older apprentices employed by very large companies experienced the most bullying. There is also a strong association between bullying and incomplete apprenticeships.

The current research is the culmination of a series of research projects focusing on apprentice mental health and wellbeing commissioned by MATES in Construction. MATES in Construction is currently consulting with the Construction industry and Government regarding the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

The Minister for Minister for Employment, Small Business, Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman acknowledged the fantastic work they do in the area of mental health.

"MATES in Construction do fantastic work, raising awareness and providing much needed mental health support for our construction industry,” Ms Fentiman said.

"This report highlights just how much we need to make sure our thousands of young apprentices have access to vital mental health and wellbeing support."

A full copy of the 60-page report can be found here.

MATES in Construction is an industry-led approach to an industry problem helping men on the ground, in their workplaces, to seek help and get better. Construction workers can call the MIC hotline anytime on 1300 642 111.

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