Training program helps workmates look out for each other

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Training program helps workmates look out for each other

Three local business have been opening up the conversation about mental health among their workforce by becoming an accredited MATES in Construction advocate.

The deBruin Group, consisting of Mayura Station, deBruin Engineering and staff at its head office in Mount Gambier, were among three local businesses to have recently obtained accreditation.

MATES in Construction’s aim is to reduce the number of lives lost to suicide in the construction industry.

MATES in Construction case manager and field officer Patrick Kukla said the companies had fully embraced the training program and are big supporters of the industry charity.

“It’s the culmination of two years of work they (deBruin) have done to support suicide awareness training and support to their workforce,” he said.

“It’s a big investment of time and energy to make their team available for the three levels of training.”

“When a company or site participates in all three levels of MATES suicide awareness and prevention training and maintains the necessary numbers of staff on site, MATES considers the site accredited.

“We do not give out these accreditations too readily, so it’s a bit of a big deal.”

Receiving the ‘MATES Accredited’ status means that at least 80% of the workers have completed the MATES General Awareness Training.

It also means there are enough people on site who are properly trained to assist, or even just connect them to the right services that can assist, individuals who need mental health support.

Mates acknowledged this achievement with a ‘handover’ ceremony celebrating and acknowledges the organisations commitment to better mental health for its workforce, commitment to suicide prevention training and the partnership that this training produces.

“Embracing the MATES program makes work sites safer, more productive and more supportive of individuals, and demonstrates a real commitment to workplace safety and mental health and well-being of all workers,” Mr Kukla said.

Established in 2008 in response to a major report on suicide rates, MATES aims to reduce the high level of 

suicide among Australian construction workers.

It is based on the simple idea that suicide is everyone’s business.

This is achieved through on-site suicide prevention programs and by supporting workers in need through case management and a 24/7 help line.

Mr Kukla said the training is internationally recognised and backed by the World Health Organisation.

“If you add up all the hours that it has taken in training and effort, it represents a big body of work and more deeply a big commitment to the mental health of the workforce,” Mr Kukla said.

DeBruin Group managing director Scott de Bruin said his team embraced the mental health training.

“It was not a requirement, but the uptake for our employee’s was excellent.

Post and during Covid there were a lot of mental health issues throughout the community and our team embraced the mental health training offered by Mates in Construction,” he said.

“What it comes down to for us is our people are our most important asset.

“To have an external organisation come and help our staff is critical for us.”

Reflecting back on what has been achieved, Mr de Bruin said offering this opportunity has been incredibly important as an employer.

“Providing essential mental health tools through to our team is an important aspect of providing a safe workplace environment,” he said.

“The fact that our team has embraced the training to improve overall mental health and to be able to look out for and support their mates onsite is incredibly important as an employer.”

Since undertaking the training, Mr de Bruin said he has seen a positive difference in his employees.

“I feel our team are very supportive of each other,” he said.

Meanwhile, Millicent electrical business Lonergan and Muhovics and Mount Gambier based company Gambier Earth Movers also fulfilled the requirements and recently acknowledged with official recognition.

In total, around 250 employees across the three companies (120 from GEM, 80 from deBruin Group and 50 from Lonergan and Muhovics) participated in the programs.

Mr Kukla encourages any other businesses wanting to embrace the MATES in Construction program to contact him directly via email or phone 0488 014 976.

More information can also be found online at

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