Leading players in Australia are taking a preventative approach to mental health problems. In our latest edition of Building Sight, we look at the increasing focus on wellbeing from a construction perspective such as how it could impact on the built environments we create, how technology is improving occupational health and the risk of psychological injury due to stress.
The last decade has seen a significant shift in attitudes toward mental health in Australia’s construction industry.
One of the catalysts for change has been the charity MATES in Construction.
Set up in 2008 in response to the disproportionately large number of suicides among construction workers, MATES has since trained nearly 170,000 people and managed more than 8,200 cases.
At the heart of a preventative approach is the provision of information and training for employees — most importantly, managers and supervisors.
Helplines and counseling for employees and their families are also now commonplace in construction, and one of Recovre’s most popular training courses is in mental health first aid.
Studies demonstrate that there is a strong business case for mental health training.
Providing four hours of mental health training to managers resulted in a potential return on investment of 9.98 times the cost of that training, according to a medical study on the Australian Fire and Rescue Service, published in 2017 by the international peer review journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
Some construction companies are going even further.
For instance, Recovre is working with a major contractor as it implements a complete health, safety, and well-being program on a huge government project that will run over several years.
The program will include mandatory physical and mental health training as part of the induction process, and a psychologist on site once a month.
Ten years ago, construction companies used rehabilitation services sparingly, after a physical injury had occurred and generally only when employees were struggling to return to work.
Today, they are creating programs to prevent injuries and improve the overall wellness of employees, both physical and mental.