As the AMHF Health Card Report testifies, men in the Northern Territory are faring worse than males anywhere else in Australia.
Addressing the rate of male suicide in the NT, in particular among construction workers, the MATES project, seeks to build peer support structures in male-dominated workplaces in the Construction, Mining and Energy industries.
Led by field officer Matthew Hulls, the NT MATES program is in its initial stages, but across the country MATES is regarded as one of the best evidence workplace programs.
According to Matthew, MATES “works from a community base ensuring that it is the men the program is targeting that define the problems we are seeking to solve and how that is best done with basis in the existing and emerging evidence. The program is based on help offering rather than help seeking, on fixing problems shoulder-to-shoulder in a non-medical framework.”
The arrival of the program to NT was announced in February, at which point MATES in Construction CEO Jorgen Gullestrup said it was not acceptable that suicide rates were much higher amongst blue-collar men in Australia.
“Suicide is preventable, that’s why we must work to lower these terrible statistics,” he said.
NT Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Paul Kirby, welcomed the arrival of the program at its launch.
“The Territory Government is working hard to reduce suicide levels in the NT – we currently have our NT Mental Health Strategic Plan out for consultation – and we look forward to working closely with MATES staff as this program rolls out to address the concerning rates of suicide among Territory construction, mining and energy employees,” he said.
“People working in these industries have been identified as a priority group within the NT’s current Suicide Prevention Implementation Plan 2018-2023 and we believe this proven multi-tiered model can play a crucial role in the wellbeing and mental health safety of the Territory’s workforce.”
Writing at the time of his appointment, Matthew Hull (pictured below) said his role was to represent the whole of the NT and facilitate a program that has proven to change the culture of suicide in the construction industry.
“I, along with my colleagues, work hard to deliver training and awareness around suicide to reduce stigmatisation but also to begin a conversation within the construction community. I am a local lad who has worked in the construction, mining and Energy sectors and prior to this, a First Aid Trainer. In addition to this, I am also Ex-Military, having served one deployment to Afghanistan in 2012,” he said.
MATES in Construction research has found suicide rates amongst NT construction workers are 104 per cent higher than for other employed men in the NT. The same research demonstrated that suicides amongst NT construction workers is happening at a much younger age than amongst other Territorians.
The MATES NT program run by Matthew Hull has been nominated for the NT Men's Health Awards.
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