Bluehats suicide prevention leads to 270% increase in construction workers seeking support
Australian construction workers are 70% more likely to take their own lives than employees from other industries.
First launched in 2018, the program was developed in partnership with unions and employers to address the increasing suicide rates among construction workers and to support their wellbeing.
It provides training to workers to enable them to identify signs of stress and poor mental health among their peers - this includes signs someone might be thinking about suicide.
Once training is complete, volunteers wear a blue hardhat on-site to indicate they can be approached for support. The skills learned in training are transferrable and can benefit families, friends, sporting clubs, and the wider community.
So far, over 5,000 workers have learned how to take care of their mental health and how to look out for their workmates on-site. More importantly, those workers now know about the increased risk of suicide in construction and where to get help.
Associated Rigging's General Manager, Darcy Hoare, said he’s seen the impact poor mental health can have on the workplace and is enthusiastic to become a Bluehat.
“I’ve seen a lot of mental health challenges in the industry so I was keen to learn how to best support others who might be struggling. With the support and training provided by the Bluehats team - I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to support my workmates and make a difference”.
Work in the construction industry can be physically and mentally demanding and the hours can be long. Workers can be expected to accept difficult work conditions without complaint at the expense of their health, to achieve project deadlines - and to fit in.
The Centre for Social Impact at UNSW in Sydney found the widespread acceptance of working long hours plus a culture of presenteeism and total availability within the industry made it difficult to balance work with family and social life.
Domenic Vigilanti; Manager of Intervention & Support Programs at Incolink, heads the Bluehats team of counsellors in Victoria and Tasmania who provide mental health first aid training and attend construction sites.
Dom explained, “The building and construction industry has strong conformity to masculine stereotypes such as self-reliance and stoicism. Help-seeking behaviour and expression of emotion are often perceived as weakness rather than a character of strength.”
He said this results in the stigmatisation of suicidal behaviour and poor mental health and can make individuals hesitant to reach out for help.
Recently, shifts in community perception and public health initiatives have supported individuals being able to self-identify a mental health issue and seek help.
Dom encourages workers to reach out for help with family, friends, and professionals - and to do it sooner rather than later. He added “Doing activities that you enjoy supports your physical, mental and social wellbeing. This builds resilience and a capacity to cope with everyday stressors.”
Darcy feels confident Associated Rigging’s involvement in the program will have a positive impact on the entire workplace. “Everyone in the workplace should learn about the warning signs for suicide and how to spot if a workmate needs help. By tackling the stigma head on, we can improve workplace morale, increase safety, and work more productively”.
Incolink has developed a research partnership with Dr. Kylie King from Monash University and a research grant supported by Suicide Prevention Australia. This research will evaluate the effectiveness of the Bluehats program moving forward.
Want to become a Bluehat or become involved in the program?
The Incolink Bluehats team (counsellors and facilitators) deliver a one-hour general awareness session (GAS) on suicide prevention and mental health to construction sites. From there, workers can register to become a Bluehats volunteer and complete an intensive workshop in suicide prevention training, comprised of a four-hour workshop and one-hour online training program.
For further information (workers and employers) register your interest via the website or
directly by contacting Incolink’s head office.
You're not alone. The following support services are available to help.
1300 000 129 For Members of Incolink 24/7 Counselling
1800 888 236 Alcohol & Drug Counselling & Referral
13 11 14 Crisis Support
1300 659 467 Suicide Call Back
1300 364 277 Support for Couples & Families
1300 789 978 Support for Men
1300 224 636 Depression & Anxiety Support
1800 650 890 Support for Young Adults
1300 134 130 Women's Information & Referral Exchange
Special thanks to the Bluehats team, in particular Domenic Vigilanti,
for their assistance, information and photos.