Construction industry has highest suicide rate

A culture of toxic masculinity was found to be rife in New Zealand's building industry a study has found. Photo: Getty Images
A culture of toxic masculinity was found to be rife in New Zealand's building industry a study has found. Photo: Getty Images

A building industry study has identified a macho and bullying culture as a major factor in the industry's high suicide numbers.

Suicide among building industry workers is the highest percentage of any industry, accounting for almost 7 percent of all suicides with forestry and farming just behind, according to the 2016 Suicide Mortality Review Committee.

Building Research Association (BRANZ) general manager of industry research Chris Litten said a consistent message emerged from its survey of the industry.

"We found that the culture of toxic masculinity is really rife.

"The 'take a concrete pill' and 'harden up' attitude is really prevalent in the industry.

"The really high-pressure nature of this industry around the boom and bust cycle, and we're in a boom cycle at the moment and that's really draining and stressful on people," Mr Litten said.

However Rick Herd, chief executive of construction firm Naylor Love, said small business owners and workers face the most pressure to keep afloat.

"That is where I believe we'll find, when more research is completed, that the biggest issues around suicide and mental wellbeing are going to be most prevalent," said Mr Herd, also a member of Construction Health and Safety New Zealand.

"I think the report [puts] far too much emphasis on the factor of macho bullying and a toxic culture. I think that is overplayed."

He said the bullying culture had improved over the past decade.

WorkSafe chief executive Nicole Rosie said the safety agency was looking at all risks in the sector, including workers' mental health.

Need help?

Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666
Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
General mental health inquiries: 0800 443 366
The Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757

Rainbow youth (LGBTQ youth helpline): (09) 3764155


I'm with Rick Herd. Chris Litten is possessed by idology. Most builders are small businesses, often working under larger companies which off load the risk onto their subcontractors. Poor legal and business practice, frustrating H&S rules, over the top concent and banking processes, all corner builders into untenable positions. Add to that family / social expectations and a total lack of appriciation or acceptance of the value of trades for decades, then you start to get at a root cause.
Chris Littens' comments blame those that are under the pump.

IT must be close behind then as same culture.

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