Top End gets top MATES
The Northern Territory has launched the workplace mental health and suicide prevention program MATES for the construction, mining and energy industries.
Minister for Primary Industry and Resources Paul Kirby is launching the program with the full support of the Northern Territory Government and the Northern Territory Primary Health Network. He says the program is much needed and the government is looking forward to working with MATES in order to address the concerning rates of suicide among Territory construction, mining and energy employees.
“People working in these industries have been identified as a priority group within the NT’s current Suicide Prevention Implementation Plan 2018-2023 and we believe this proven multi-tiered model can play a crucial role in the wellbeing and mental health safety of the Territory’s workforce.”
The MATES program brings employers and employees together to tackle the issue of suicide which is particularly prevalent on construction sites to connect struggling workers with existing support services.
The leading cause of death for men aged between 15 and 44, suicide rates in the Northern Territory are the highest in the country. Research from MATES in Construction showed that suicide rates among NT construction workers are 104% higher than for other employed men in the NT. The same research also demonstrated that suicide among NT construction workers is happening at a much younger age than amongst other Territorians.
160,000 construction workers, 8,400 mine workers and almost 6,000 energy workers have been trained by MATES in Construction to recognise the signs when work mates are struggling with mental health issues and connecting them to help.
MATES in Construction NT chief executive Jorgen Gullestrup says it is not acceptable that suicide rates are much higher among blue-collar men in Australia.
“Suicide is preventable, that’s why we must work to lower these terrible statistics.”
NT PHN chief executive officer Nicki Herriot says it is very important that there are support services available and accessible across the NT.
“We are confident that this program will greatly contribute to addressing identified gaps within the NT suicide prevention service sector. We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact the roll-out of this program will have on workers,” she says.
The work MATES in Construction in Queensland has been associated with a 7.9% reduction in construction suicides over its first five years of operation.
“That’s four lives saved in Queensland every year – that is a lot of pain and suffering prevented,” Jorgen says.
“This of course doesn’t count the many hundreds of workers with whom lifesaving conversations were had and didn’t get to the point of suicide. We are convinced we can do the same in the Northern Territory construction, mining and energy industries.”
A full time field officer/case manager will be permanently based in Darwin and will work with the MATES team across the country to run the program on sites across the Northern Territory.