MATES in Construction speak about mental health struggles to Cleveland AITC students

HELPING HAND: Dave Breeze, Bel Kibbler and Brenda Rooney from AITC with Caine Ansell and Justin Geange from MATES in Construction.
HELPING HAND: Dave Breeze, Bel Kibbler and Brenda Rooney from AITC with Caine Ansell and Justin Geange from MATES in Construction.

KEEPING an eye out for your friends was the advice of MATES in Construction speakers who visited Australian Industry Trade College students in Cleveland this week.

Young people at the industry-based school heard from speakers this week on recognising when their mates were not doing well and helping them access support.

MATES in Construction was established to reduce the high level of suicide among Australian construction workers after a report on suicide in the Queensland commercial building and construction industry, which found suicide rates in the industry were more than two times more common than the national average.

Justin Geange and Caine Ansell, who both worked in construction, opened up to students in years 10, 11 and 12 about their mental health struggles and shared some of the signs to look for when mates may need support.

"I did try to bury and ignore the bad feelings, but eventually what happens is the same as if you try to push a beach ball underwater ... it pops back up," Mr Ansell said.

A spokesperson said that with a large number of young people at the AITC pursuing a construction apprenticeship, the College took its role in preparing students for full time work in industry seriously.

The presentation focussed on the importance of noticing when a mates' behaviour was different to normal, in person or online.

"If they're posting stuff online that's really sad or just a bit out of character, reach out and ask them if they're okay," Mr Ansell said.

"All of you can look out for each other. You spend a lot of time at school so you might see your school mates more than you see your other friends, so you will get to know each other really well.

"You don't have to be their best mate to be the one who asks if they're okay."

After the presentation, the students were given a card that listed resources and organisations for them to reach out to, most of which are free services.

"MATES [in Construction] is a soft-touch service," Mr Geange said.

"We have a big network of support services, so if someone calls us, they can speak to our case workers, or even to one of us who have worked in the construction industry.

"Sometimes, people just need to have a yarn with us, and they don't want to be referred on to a support service. Others will be connected with our case workers, who will refer them on to the services they need," Mr Ansell said.

Students at the Redlands campus were left with a pertinent piece of advice.

"It's much easier to reach out when you have a mate doing it with you," Mr Geange said.

"So instead of encouraging your mate who is struggling to make a call to someone who can help them, suggest you make the call together. Just say 'hey mate, how about we call someone to get some help together'."