Men's Health Week: Researcher interviewing 500 men to understand suicide rates in building industry

A Massey University researcher is hoping his new study of the high suicide rate in the building industry will inform leaders and help break down barriers.

Andy Walmsley is interviewing more than 500 men in the industry to find out more about their wellbeing, their perceptions about seeking help and what barriers could be standing in the way of this.

From July 2017 to June 2018, 668 Kiwis took their own lives, up from 540 in 2008. Of these, 75 percent were men.

Within the construction industry, Site Safe revealed last month that there have been 300 suicide cases in the last decade. Of those, 32.3 percent of cases were deemed by coroners to be somewhat influenced by workplace pressures.

Those pressures may include job insecurity, stress related to running a business, deadlines, and dealing with injury affecting ability to work.

Walmsley's study includes 562 men in the sector aged between 20 and 65.

"I have gone to three funerals now of men or friends who have committed suicide, so it is quite a passion that is close to my heart," he told Newshub.

He is hoping his research informs leaders in the industry to better understand what is stopping men using mental health services.

"Whether that is structural barriers, so that's having the time to seek help and the resources available, and whether it is also beliefs to seeking help and attitudes towards seeking help."

How men seek "shoulder-to-shoulder" intervention will also be considered. This is a form of peer support, which can include integrating elements of therapy into sport, cooking classes, building and outdoor activities.

"Compared to females, men under-utilise mental health services. This raises the question: ‘do we change men to match the service? Or change the service to match men’s needs?

"Shoulder-to-shoulder interventions aim to create a male-friendly environment, where men can engage in conversations about mental health based on their own terms."

He says shoulder-to-shoulder intervention has been shown as effective in engaging men and associated with decreased anxiety and depression, reductions in stigmas associated with mental illness, and increased mental health literacy.

The results of the study will be available in 2020.

Where to find help and support:

Men's Health Week (June 10 - 16) aims to bring awareness to health issues that affect men disproportionately.