Mar 30, 2016

Suicide trends among trades and operators

Suicide trends among trades and operators

A new study commissioned by Mates in Construction (MIC), an organisation formed to promote mental health, shows suicide is having a vast impact on tradespeople and operators.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for males aged between 25 and 44 and for women between 25 and 34.

The study, ‘The economic cost of suicide and non-fatal suicidal behaviour in the Australian construction industry by state and territory’, revealed 169 male workers in the construction industry took their own lives in 2012. The average age was 37 years.

Data for the study focused on three major groups: technicians and trade workers; machine operators and; drivers and labourers.

It showed for every suicide there are 15 attempts with three (17 per cent) resulting in full incapacity and 12 (83 per cent) resulting in short absences from work.

Using costing methodology endorsed by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, the study found that the total cost of suicide and non-fatal suicide behaviour (NFSB) in the Australian construction industry was $1.57 billion.

The majority of the cost is associated with NFSB resulting in full incapacity (76.5 per cent) followed by the cost of suicide (23.3 per cent).

The authors of the study, Christopher Doran and Rod Ling, concluded that their estimates were conservative and, given that the costs are significant and suicide is preventable, more effort must be devoted to addressing mental health issues in the construction industry.

MIC chief executive officer Jurgen Gullestrup said the research was undertaken to illustrate to politicians and potential industry sponsors the economic impact of suicide and NFSB.

“Some people found it abhorrent that we would try and put a dollar value on suicide but it is a tool to underline the importance of prevention when talking to MPs and businesses,” he said.

A review by Ms Milner of suicide by occupation revealed a stepwise gradient in risk with the lowest-skilled occupations at greater risk than the highest skill-level groups (managers/supervisors).

Another disturbing finding reveals that a fatality by suicide has a flow-on effect impacting the lives of a number of individuals from family and friends, colleagues, clinicians, first responders, coronial staff, volunteers and bereavement services.

The research suggests that each fatality by suicide impacts directly on six to 20 people.

To underscore this, research indicates it may be witnessed by, on average, three colleagues who may require counselling and time off work.

To find out more about the academic study visit: or MIC’s website at

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