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OzHelp outlines six priorities for helping blokes in high-risk male suicide industries

A new end-of-year report released by the OzHelp Foundation called It’s tough out there highlights evidence that workers in male-dominated, high-risk industries remain at a higher risk of mental health issues and suicide.

“Some of these risk factors relate to the work they do, such as high job demands, social and geographic isolation, being away from home, job insecurity, physical danger, bullying and access to lethal means,” said OzHelp CEO, Darren Black at OzHelp's Year in Review event on Tuesday, 14 December. 

“There are also ‘life’ factors such as financial stress, relationship problems, legal problems and health issues.”

In 2020, 2385 men died by suicide, an average of seven men per day. Truck drivers were the second-highest occupation group at risk of suicide after construction workers.

It’s tough out there identifies six key priorities that will contribute to better mental health and suicide prevention outcomes for hard-to-reach workers in high-risk industries.

These are:

  1. To prioritise and expand existing trusted services and programs that are safe, relevant and accessible.

  2. To be proactive with outreach, helping people in their time and on their terms.

  3. To focus on regional, occupation-specific approaches that are flexible and related to individual needs.

  4. To always include lived experience in designing programs and interventions.

  5. To assist and support the development of a National Male Suicide Prevention Strategy, sharing research, experience and best practice.

  6. To constantly evaluate services and programs, and to measure their effectiveness.

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“We’ve got a really good feel for what works,” said Darren Black.  

“It’s been a tough year for everyone, it’s also been a positive year for OzHelp,” Black said.

“We’ve connected with over 50,000 people in the last financial year.”

Face-to-face services were also up 25%, he said.

“We are thinking constantly about how we can better connect with workers in high risk and hard to reach industries.”

The pandemic had exacerbated the risk of suicide. Unemployment, social isolation and being locked away for extended periods of time had had a significant impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Darren Black referred to the ‘silent pandemic’ being talked about among industry experts, where the effects of COVID and lockdowns would have longer impacts on people’s mental health. Demand for services provided by OzHelp would only increase in 2022, he said. The organisation is preparing to meet that demand.

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 “What we know from 20 years of experience is the importance of taking those services on site to the people where they can access them easily.”

OzHelp takes an early intervention approach, with teams of health professionals running wholistic tradie, truckie and workplace tune-ups along with wellbeing empowerment programs. The check-ups start with physical health checks and identify mental health issues that could escalate without intervention.

“We disguise the mental health check with a physical health check and it works,” Darren said.  

A more recent OzHelp initiative is Health in Gear, a health and wellbeing program for owner drivers in the road transport industry, launched in January 2021.

 Under this program, health screens were delivered to drivers across ACT, NSW and Queensland.

78 drivers took part in the evaluation and were contacted by OzHelp staff at two further check-in points. 51 completed all three contacts (65%).

Of these:

  • 98% said they would recommend Health In Gear to their workmates.
  • 84% were motivated to take up action in relation to Truckie tune-up recommendations.
  • 39% reported a positive change in their physical health.
  • 37% reported a positive change in how they rated their mental health.
  • 35% of drivers visited their GP.

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