For most of us, tomorrow will be like any other day – breakfast, school runs, traffic, work, more traffic, dinner, sleep, repeat. But for the eight Australians who will die by suicide tomorrow, this ordinary day will be their last.
And for those they leave behind – family, friends, workmates and significant others – it will be a day that changes everything.
Construction project manager Jordan Cisek knows first-hand how life changing that suicide can be. Two years ago, when a close mate took his life, it left he and his circle of friends not only devastated, but with many unanswered questions. No one had seen it coming, and even now when Mr Cisek talks about their final catch up shortly before his friend’s death, he says there were no signs that his mate was in trouble.
“In 2016 I lost a pretty close mate to suicide, quite unexpectedly. It’s something that will live with me for the rest of my life,” Mr Cisek said.
“Everything seemed fine. He showed no signs of irregular behaviour or anything that would make me expect for him to be suicidal.”
Every day in Australia eight people die by suicide and six of these will be men. Construction workers are twice as likely as people in other occupations to suicide. These are sobering statistics.
In response to this, Victoria’s largest construction industry redundancy fund, Incolink, has launched Bluehats – a suicide prevention initiative that aims to tackle the rising rate of suicide among workers in Victoria by fostering a culture of talking about the issue.
The number of construction worker suicides responded to by Incolink has spiked from one every six months two years ago, to around one every month over the past year.
The Bluehats program has industry-wide backing because it was created in partnership with employers and unions. Bluehats involves Incolink’s team of mental health professionals visiting construction sites across Victoria to provide one-hour general awareness sessions on suicide prevention to all workers.
Workers can then volunteer to become a ‘Bluehat’ and will receive a full day’s training and a branded blue hardhat giving them high visibility and recognition as a safe and non-judgmental first port of call for co-workers who are doing it tough. ‘Bluehats’ will be trained to link workers to appropriate mental health services.
Incolink CEO Dan O’Brien said the Bluehats program was a response to the spike in suicides, particularly among males in the construction industry.
“Mental health is a big issue in our industry and unfortunately too many of us know someone who has been impacted by suicide,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The first measure of success for Bluehats will be to initiate a conversation and start to remove some of the stigma. Ultimately, the objective is simple – get the numbers down and save lives.”
Incolink has been providing counselling support and mental health awareness to the Victorian construction industry for almost 30 years and hopes the Bluehats program will empower workers to talk about their mental health, to seek help and reduce deaths by suicide.