Suicide prevention programme Mates in Construction seeks Government funding as number of young tradies taking their lives rises

More than 60 percent of construction workers who took their own life over three years were under 35, and builders were represented much more than other tradespeople.

As far as regions go, Canterbury DHB had the highest proportion of deaths, with Waikato and Southern next.

Built Environs general manager Greg Ford had his boots nailed to the ground when he was an apprentice. He says bullying is still a problem and so is stress – but says one conversation can save someone’s life.

“It is the first step for a person who is not feeling well to get the right help.”

Ford is one of many construction bosses funding Mates in Construction.

“I just want people to open up,” he says.

But Ford and McArthur say the programme costs $2 million a year to run, and they can’t just rely on a handful of construction companies to fund it.

They want help from the Government, and clinical psychologist Dr Dougal Sutherland says time is of the essence.

“Now is the time to do something about it,” he says. “We have got money put aside and really the call is for the Government to act on this now.”

Construction Management Group managing director Dave Redmond knows two young workers who have died by suicide.

But he says it feels like there is little to no support for construction businesses wanting to help employees.

“His dad walked up the stairs and told me he had taken his life, and that really shook me because he was only about 22.”

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood says this is something he will discuss with colleagues who are part of the construction sector accord.

“That is absolutely an issue we will take seriously.”

Construction worker Richard has been through the Mates course, and he says Government funding is a no-brainer.

“That is just a drop in the bucket for what they are spending money on other things.”

In the meantime, Richard has a message for tradies in trouble.

“You’ve just got to seek some help.”

Tradie Craig Bulloch won an uphill battle against suicidal thoughts and is on a mission to break the stigma around mental health.

He wants men to start talking about their feelings and says talking with his brother saved his life.

“I started getting back into my physical activities and started getting into Ironman and I thought if any ‘Joe Blow’ could get through it then I thought hey anyone can.”

Where to find help and support: