MATES in Construction

06 June 2021

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G.J. Gardner Homes is proud and excited to be partnering with MATES in Construction.  

Over 7,000 people will benefit from the programme designed to support workplace mental health, wellbeing & suicide prevention, established through a partnership between G.J. Gardner Homes and MATES in Construction.

G.J. Gardner Homes is New Zealand’s largest home builder, completing around 1,500 homes every year, and employing over 7,000 workers either directly or as subcontractors and trades.

The MATES in Construction programme is conducted onsite and is about encouraging construction workers and staff to look after each other, seek, offer, and accept help when it is needed.

“As a business and organisation, we care about our people, that they are safe in their work environment, that they return to family and loved ones at the end of each working day and that they are in a stable state to return to work the following day.

Some people find it difficult to have a conversation or share what is troubling them which is why this new partnership with MATES in Construction is so important. It means that all of our offices and build sites will have the necessary support and on the job training to raise awareness of mental health issues in the workplace” said Ellie Porteous, Managing Director of G.J. Gardner Homes.

Last year 654 people died because of suicide, with our Maori and Pasifika population overrepresented in the numbers, a demographic heavily represented across the construction industry. MATES in Construction CEO Victoria McArthur says expanding the programme to GJ’s will see more support for workers who are at high risk. In addition, small construction business owners and their workers are particularly susceptible to the factors that contribute to the over-representation of construction workers in New Zealand’s suicide toll, particularly lack of understanding of the issue of suicide and associated stigma, employment/financial insecurity and workplaces that are not supportive of help-seeking. Working with GJ’s, we will be able to reach into these communities through their sub-contractors and suppliers to create a more supportive construction community.

“Construction workers have the highest suicide rate of any industry – we are losing roughly one person a week on average. Part of this is that the people in our industry tend to be men for whom talking about this stuff might not come naturally. MATES in Construction is about putting onsite programmes in place, led by people who have worked in the industry and who come from the tools. It’s about building capacity through a supportive culture where we look after our mates, we keep an eye on each other and where people know they can speak up if they need extra help.”

The MATES programme focuses on opening communication channels, changing on-site culture and improving knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide.

It starts with a one-hour General Awareness induction for all workers on a site, providing the skills to help workers start discussions with someone who may be struggling on-site or even in their community. Volunteers can also be trained as Connectors (trained to help keep someone in crisis safe, while at the same time connecting them to professional help), with some also receiving ASIST advanced intervention training.