The importance of looking out for your mates at work

Photo Source: R U OK - looking out for mates 2019
Photo Source: R U OK – looking out for mates 2019

R U OK? Ambassador and MATES in Construction Field Officer Justin Geange highlights the importance of looking out for your mates on your worksite.

What is ‘MATES in Construction’?

MATES in Construction is a charity that focuses on mental health and suicide prevention in the construction industry. Research has shown that people working in the construction industry are at a higher risk of suicide than the general population of Australia. In fact, we lose a construction worker to suicide every second day in Australia.

Our focus is on giving resources and tools to the people in the construction industry. By doing this we can educate and encourage people to identify the signs that their mates may be struggling, how to approach them about their struggles, listen without judgment and connect them to help. It is all about help offering, simplified as Mates helping Mates!

What is Fly the Flag?

Fly the Flag is an initiative for the construction industry to show support and raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. The message is about taking the time out of a day to remind each other to notice when our mates may be struggling and that it’s not only OK to have these conversations but essential and important! Fly the Flag is about letting the greater community know that MATES in Construction, Energy and Mining are committed to looking out for our mates!

Why is the targeted campaign for construction industry workers so important?

This campaign is so important as it acknowledges we have a problem in our industry, but it also empowers our industry to do something about it, by starting to have transparent, “fair dinkum” conversations that matter. By having mates helping mates we are seeing people get help and support before it gets to tipping point.

What difference can the MATES in Construction message make to an organisation’s culture?

The term “big wheels turn slowly” is one that can be said of our industry. As a plumber for over 25 years, I can attest to the ‘harden-up’ mentality of our industry. But I do see that slowly changing, both in my personal conversations within the industry and via the ever-increasing use of our 1300 national helpline number (1300 642 111), people are reaching out and people are getting help and services to people they care about. Fly the Flag is a statement to the industry saying that we will not be held captive to the old school of thought that we don’t talk about the things that send us sideways. We will stand up for our mates and have life changing conversations.

What needs to be done to promote the MATES in Construction message in the industry?

The conversation needs to continue to grow and we need to engage with and empower our industry to put the mental health and wellbeing of the people in our industry first. I believe that is the first step in building a better future in this industry that I am so passionate about!

How can people get involved?

A Connector or ASIST trained person (someone who has received training in how to identify if someone is struggling, how to ask about what they notice, how to listen and how to keep that person struggling safe) can register their site through the MATES in Construction website

For more information on MATES in Construction and Fly the Flag, please visit

If you need support, lifeline can be contacted anytime on 13 11 14.

Source: R U OK website, 31 August 2019