Mental health and the HVAC industry

Published: 31 August 2020

Workplace mental health is a critical issue in the construction industry, but there are simple ways to help co-workers facing mental health issues.

In a recent AMCA webinar, MATES in Construction CEO Chris Lockwood said mental health was something that impacted us in all facets of our lives.

In Australia, more than 3,000 people died from suicide in 2018, with men accounting for three quarters of deaths, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Mr Lockwood said there were significantly higher rates of suicide among men working in the construction industry, compared to men in the general population.

“Even more shocking than that was when we looked at young men working in construction, compared to the young working male population, and it’s significantly higher rates in our industry,” he said.

How to promote good mental health in the workplace

People spend a great deal of the time in the workplace, so it’s imperative to promote positive mental health practices to support people who are struggling.

Mr Lockwood said it was important to have a culture of care and openness in the workplace, where people actively looked out for each other.

“If people actually know they can have a trusted conversation, be it with management or a peer, there is far more likelihood that you will see if there is an issue,” he said.

If someone is struggling, you can help by being yourself, listening to them and connecting them with help or resources.

Don’t try to give them advice or judge their behaviour and avoid rushing or counselling them.

With many people working from home, Mr Lockwood said making time for one-on-one sessions with staff via videoconferencing to check in with colleagues was helpful.

How to identify when a staff member is not coping

People facing mental health challenges might become moody, careless, distant, or their attitude might change.

There might be changes in behaviour around alcohol or drug misuse, gambling, or giving away possessions.

Mr Lockwood said people can be impacted by life events such as relationship problems, pending legal matters or financial problems.

Other life events to look out for include conflicts, unemployment, work problems, grief, and child custody disputes.

“All of these things are often about loss, about loss of control, opportunity, family or relationships,” Mr Lockwood said.

“If you see signs of trouble, then tell someone.”

There is plenty of support available for people who are struggling. They can reach out to:

  • MATES helpline – 1300 642 111
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Emergency services - 000
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Local GP
  • Religious leaders.

What should you do if a staff member is suicidal?

If a colleague is suicidal, then connecting them directly to help is important.

These services can support people in crisis:

  • MATES helpline – 1300 642 111
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Emergency services – 000

Remember to stay calm, take your time and remember that you don’t have to be the expert.

The importance of protecting your own mental health

If you are feeling stressed, sad, confused, or angry, then remember to keep talking to your mates.

Stay healthy by eating well, getting enough sleep, keeping up exercise, and maintaining social contact with friends, workmates, and family.

Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs to deal with your emotions.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then get help by contacting MATES or other mental health services.

How the AMCA can help

The Air Conditioning & Mechanical Contractors’ Association (AMCA) is committed to promoting positive mental health practices in the commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry.

If your business needs assistance accessing mental health support services or resources, please don’t hesitate to contact the AMCA.

There are also numerous other benefits available to AMCA members. Find out more about what you get for your AMCA membership here.