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The construction industry is a crucial component of our economy, but what many may not realise is the distressing reality surrounding mental wellbeing and suicide rates among its workers. On average, one construction worker takes their own life every week, losing more workers to suicide every year than any other industry in Aotearoa.

While these statistics are devastating, they emphasise why the work of our Good Impressions partner, MATES in Construction, is so important within our local communities.

Since 2019, MATES New Zealand have provided suicide prevention training and support to the construction industry, with an aim to deconstruct the stigma around mental health / wellbeing by building capacity within workplaces and construction sites for individuals who may be suffering.

"It is okay not to be okay, but it is not okay to do nothing about it."

MATES in Construction New Zealand

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Prior to the introduction of MATES in Construction New Zealand in 2019, the construction industry had largely been focusing on physical safety and had programmes in place for this. But it was clear that the emotional and mental health of workers was not getting the same attention. MATES had worked in Australia, having started in 2008, and the industry believed it would work here in Aotearoa too.

MATES delivers on-site training with the key message that it is okay not to be okay, but it is not okay to do nothing about it and encourage help seeking and help-offering behaviours. 

In simple terms, that means people being able to spot someone that might be struggling, or that they might be struggling themselves.

Help-offering behaviour can sometimes be as just as easy as taking 10 seconds of courage to step into another person’s space and say: ”Hey I can see…” ultimately, building a community of people looking out for one another and being able to spot clues that one of their Mates is struggling.

MATES Field Officers have observed that mental health / wellbeing and suicide is simply not discussed, so in April 2022, the MATES team took on courageous challenges as part of a campaign to remind people that it only takes Ten Seconds of Courage to check on a mate. With the help of Born Bred Talent and Go Media, they put forth the first official TikTok challenge to feature across our nationwide digital billboards in New Zealand.

This simple message turned into 8.9 million views on social media, had a reach of over 15.7 million, and even became a finalist for the 2022 TVNZ Marketing Awards.

The construction industry has many pressures that contribute to a unique experience – long working hours, a male-dominated workforce, fluid working environments as well as everyday stressors (relationship breakdowns, financial pressures and grief).

One of the most prominent stigmas that exists within the construction industry is that ‘it is weak to speak’, though the reality is that it takes great strength to speak up when you are struggling.

Over the years, MATES has had several success stories where their programs and support have made a significant impact on people's lives. 

"He came straight up to me and said, 'You all good?' Then he took off my glasses and said, 'No you’re not. What are you trying to hide?' And I just broke down."

Anonymous, Early Success Story from MATES

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One such story comes from a father of a young daughter who was battling through a rough time in his life. He had been taught to "be a man" and, to him, that meant not talking about how he felt. 

The man recalls a day when a foreman had been watching him, and saw that he was crying under his safety glasses.

"He came straight up to me and said, 'You all good?' Then he took off  my glasses and said, 'No you’re not. What are you trying to hide?' And I just broke down."

After following the foreman’s suggestions to stop working and come back when he was ready, the man met with MATES the next day and over time, began to learn a lot about himself.

Now back to living a healthy life, the man praises MATES as the people that kept him going for his daughter, and wants other people to know to keep fighting.

“If my story gets through to someone and helps save a life, that’s all I want.”

Through our Good Impressions initiative, Go Media has been supporting MATES by displaying their 0800 number on our nationwide digital billboard network, allowing them to raise awareness about their mission further and continue the conversation about mental health and suicide prevention.

We are proud to partner with MATES in Construction and support their important work. If you're interested in learning more about MATES, donating to their cause, or just need support, we encourage you to visit their website or listen to their podcast "Hey Bro" which can be found here on Spotify.

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