MATES in Construction (MATES) has made significant strides in improving mental health and preventing suicide among construction workers in Australia. Since its founding in 2008, MATES has experienced remarkable growth and expanded its reach across the country, operating in Queensland, Northern Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia. More recently, MATES has extended its footprint into the mining, energy, and manufacturing industries, and in 2019, it established operations in New Zealand.
The construction industry is renowned for its demanding nature, high-pressure environments, and physically strenuous work. However, it is the often unseen toll on mental health that renders this industry particularly vulnerable. Recognising the need for targeted intervention and support, MATES was established with a mission to combat the alarmingly high rates of suicide within the construction workforce.
What sets MATES apart is its industry-specific approach. By understanding the unique challenges faced by workers, the organisation has effectively tailored its programs and services to meet their needs. MATES focuses on fostering a culture of awareness, support, and compassion within the industry, with a strong emphasis on prevention and early intervention.
Central to MATES’ initiatives are the Connector and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) programs. Connectors are individuals within companies who undergo specialised training to identify and respond to signs of distress among their colleagues. They serve as the first point of contact for those in need, offering a listening ear, providing resources, and guiding them towards professional help when necessary. Connectors play a vital role in dismantling the stigma associated with mental health issues and establishing a supportive network within the work community.
The ASIST program is another critical component of MATES’ efforts. It equips individuals with the skills and knowledge required to effectively intervene in crisis situations. By delivering training to construction workers, supervisors, and other key stakeholders, ASIST empowers individuals to take action and potentially save lives.
MATES’ impact extends beyond training programs. The organisation actively engages with construction companies, unions, government agencies, and other stakeholders to promote mental health and suicide prevention. By partnering with industry leaders, MATES advocates for policy changes, supports research initiatives, and fosters collaboration to create safer and more supportive work environments.
The success of MATES can be attributed to its holistic and comprehensive approach. Through a combination of training, education, and awareness campaigns, MATES addresses mental health and suicide prevention at multiple levels. The organisation’s emphasis on early intervention, de-stigmatisation, and the establishment of support networks has proven effective in saving lives and enhancing the overall well-being of workers. In 2021, MATES in Construction was featured as an exemplary best practice in a global resource by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
MATES has become a beacon of hope for the construction, mining, energy, and manufacturing industries. Its commitment to eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health and providing practical support has revolutionised how these industry sectors approach mental health. Through innovative programs and collaborative efforts, MATES continues to make a lasting impact on the lives of workers, cultivating a culture of care and support that instils hope in those who need it most.