Mental health issues plague 14-year-old workers – but this construction site is careful
A dusty construction site outside of Newcastle might not be where you would expect to find people talking about their mental health or suicide.
- Eight Australians kill themselves every day, and it’s the leading cause of death among young people
- New program trains 10,000 community members to recognize the signs someone is in a dark place
- Over the past decade, suicide deaths in Australia have increased by around 13%
But at this construction site in the suburb of Sandgate, Kate Mudd tells the guys she works with to do just that.
“It’s a male-dominated field, and a lot of them worry that if you talk about mental health, you will be portrayed as weak.”
Ms. Mudd is a former excavator operator and truck driver who now works in the health and safety field at Mullane Construction Plumbing.
During her years in the industry, she has seen how common mental health issues are – and says she’s starting to see them strike at younger and younger ages among on-site apprentices.
“Things have to change radically, because [suicide] becomes more and more [common],” she says.
“We’re not talking about your 25-40 age group, you’re looking at your 14s. They’re the next rising generation.”
The longtime team employs around 300 people, and Ms Mudd has signed up many of them to a new NSW Health program called Gatekeeper, which trains 10,000 community members to recognize the signs that someone is in. a dark place.
The hope is that with thousands of people better equipped to notice mood swings and then approach their peers, the whole community can take action.
“I also think that being able to approach someone if you see the signs is a tricky question for anyone and just going up and telling someone that everything will be fine is not the best. way, ”Ms. Mudd said.
People who do not yet need acute services often fall through gaps in the system, and the latest data shows just how much demand there is for this type of intervention.
About half of the people who kill themselves have never had contact with the health care system.
“I can be that silver lining”
Ms Mudd lived with depression for a decade and fought back from a trough that saw her attempt to kill herself.
Watching the confident construction worker share a laugh as she tours the site, it can be hard to imagine that she was once in a dark, gloomy place.
She hopes to be a source of inspiration.
“So these people who suffer every day, I can be this silver lining that there is this light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Gatekeeper program has been enthusiastically embraced by the company’s senior management.
One of the company’s alumni, Brad Garrard, says he’s happy this has changed from the old “hard ass” industry, where it wasn’t wise to show vulnerability.
The industry has been proactive in changing that and Mr. Garrard says the culture has completely changed.
Now he and his colleagues are looking for subtle emotional changes and they want to talk about it.
“It’s one of those things that we have to take into account once we start to see changes in people, their behaviors, the way they go to work every day,” he says.
“And it’s important that we are made aware of their changes, so that if they don’t speak openly with their fellow workers at work, we actually identify that, and there may be concerns.”
Eight Australians kill themselves every day, and it is the leading cause of death among young people.
Over the past decade, the number of suicide deaths in Australia has increased by around 13%, from 10.7 people per 100,000 in 2009 to 12.1 people in 2018.
Men, Aboriginal peoples and those from regional and remote regions are over-represented.
This means that the number of lost Australians can vary widely from state to state.
In the NT, 20 people die by suicide per 100,000 people; in Queensland 16; in Tasmania and Western Australia 15; in SA 12; in New South Wales and ACT 11; and Victoria 9.
Each death is deeply traumatic for friends and family, and often the impacts ricochet throughout the community as well.
Some have commented that suicides could increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic – but over the past 12 months suicide deaths have actually declined, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Despite concerns about the impact of the pandemic, suicide deaths declined from 2019 to 2020, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
However, the renewed focus on mental health has seen much-needed resources pour into the sector, and with them new approaches to prevent people from committing suicide.
A helping hand to get back on your feet
Where the Gatekeeper program aims to connect with people in the community before they need professional help, another program aims to help people like Jed Field, after they have been in the system. health.
Mr. Field’s life spun out of control in AD 10.
The teenager from Swansea – about half an hour south of Newcastle – was regularly hospitalized after several suicide attempts.
“I pretty much walked into a hole. Like I was alone.
“I felt insecure about everything I was doing and the people around me.”
Mr Field was one of the first participants in a new NSW Health program called Aftercare, which aims to provide people with support for six months after leaving the emergency room.
People are 20 times more likely to kill themselves after an attempt, and many are leaving hospitals unable to navigate a confusing mental health system or get basic help organizing their lives.
The program, run by non-clinical staff, seeks to fill this hole in the system.
Staff will visit someone at home and provide support which can be as simple as practical skills in fixing finances or navigating a sometimes complicated healthcare system.
Mr. Field says it changed his life – and for the first time, he felt wanted.
“I knew they were there by my side day in and day out if I ever needed to talk to someone,” he said.
Now 19 years old, Mr. Field gives him credit for changing his life.
He is going back to school to complete his 10th grade and hopes to serve his country in the military.
This is his message to the people stuck in this low place.
In the federal budget, the government announced $ 156.8 million to help make the program national.
“We have to talk about suicide, we have to talk about suicide prevention,” said NSW Minister of Mental Health Bronnie Taylor.
“It’s a really hard thing to say and it’s important that we do it, but we also have to be brave enough and brave enough to try out these different models.”