Building better mental health

Bryce Dunlop (left) and Glen Thurston, from Dunlop Builders, are doing their part to break the...
Bryce Dunlop (left) and Glen Thurston, from Dunlop Builders, are doing their part to break the silence and stigma surrounding mental health in the construction industry. PHOTO: ASPEN BRUCE
Queenstown's Dunlop Builders were announced as winners of the 2021 Site Safe’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Award earlier this year.

That award was recognition for the work they were doing and are continuing to do in breaking down barriers and improving mental health in the construction industry.

Stigma, shame and fear were identified by 31% of construction workers as the biggest barriers to accessing help and support from mental health services in the district, according to a 2020 Queenstown Lakes District Council’s Quality of Life Report.

Since then, local businesses and community groups have become proactive about de-stigmatising mental health conversations.

Dunlop Builders managing director Bryce Dunlop acknowledged mental health training within his team had been prioritised through Mates in Construction programmes.

Mates in Construction is a non-profit, industry-funded organisation that aims to reduce the number of lives lost to suicide in the construction industry. In 2019, construction had the highest male suicide rate for any occupational group.

"We teach our team to identify stress, anxiety and depression in themselves and others, and give them the tools to know what to do about it. Our team have all completed Mates in Construction Suicide Awareness Training and we have four ‘Connectors’ across our site," Mr Dunlop said.

Statistics from University of Otago research revealed on average 53 people within construction had taken their own lives each year since 2017.

To help increase awareness, Dunlop Builders employee Glen Thurston will be hiking Corner Peak consecutively for 53 days from December 1 this year.

"It’s time to crank up the conversation surrounding mental health, break the silence, break the stigma and make some noise about mental health in construction," Mr Thurston said on his website, Turn the Corner. Mates in Construction senior field officer Slade McFarland acknowledged that mental health challenges within construction are not new.

"It’s always been there and we’ve never talked about it. We talk a great game about safety, but when it comes to mental health, it’s behind closed doors," Mr McFarland said.

Mates In Construction hosts on-site trainings, focused on equipping construction staff with the skills to navigate unfamiliar conversations.

These conversations are referred to as "invitations" and are are based on observing behavioural shifts.

"Sometimes we know our work colleagues better than our own families. We may notice a change in behaviour on one day, but when there’s changes in behaviour over a period of time that’s when we need to invite these kind of conversations," Mr McFarland said.






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