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July 01, 2021

Mental health training is becoming a priority for Canberran apprentices

Mental health training is becoming a priority for Canberran apprentices

A study conducted by Central Queensland University in 2020 has found that construction workers in Australia were 70% more likely to take their lives than employees in other industries, ABC News reported. Master Builders ACT commercial director Liz Nair recognizes that some of the challenges for workers in the sector, and especially young people, include “the hours of work, the duration of work, location of work and also the stress in managing time so the time pressures to get projects and work completed by.” As a result, the industry is now introducing two years of mandatory mental health and wellbeing training to all of its carpentry apprentices.

Richard Layard, an IZA World of Labor author, has found that mental illness is most prevalent among working-age people. “Providing evidence-based therapies for people with a mental illness should be at the heart of public policymaking,” he writes in his article. “Progress in evidence-based psychological therapies, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, has resulted in 50% recovery rates for people with clinical depression or chronic anxiety disorders and substantial improvements for others. Therapy also halves the likelihood of a relapse [and it] boosts both employment and output, with gains exceeding the cost of treatment.”

The training for workers is provided by OzHelp, which was founded in 2001, after a young Canberran apprentice took his own life. Consequently, in the same year, and within three months, three other apprentices in the capital city of Australia committed suicide. The training OzHelp provide covers risk factors when it comes to mental health, self-care and different strategies for supporting colleagues and friends. “What we know from the evidence and research is that early intervention does work and the earlier you can get to people ... the better chance we have of preventing some of those tragic circumstances,” Darren Black, Chief Executive of OzHelp, said.

The OzHelp program has been so successful through Master Builders ACT, that the organization is now asking the ACT government to impart a $1,000 mental health support subsidy to ensure that every apprentice in the capital can undertake the training. “What we'll notice is a more resilient workforce, hopefully, we'll see a decline in suicide rates and we'll make a big difference to the statistics that we're currently seeing nationally around poor mental health in our sector,” Ms Nair said.

Read Richard Layard’s article The economics of mental health.