Macho, bullying culture a key factor in building industry’s high suicide numbers – study

25 Sept 2018

A building industry study has identified a macho and bullying culture as a major factor in the industry's high suicide numbers.

Suicide among building industry workers is the highest percentage of any industry, accounting for almost 7 percent of all suicides with forestry and farming just behind, according to the 2016 Suicide Mortality Review Committee.

Building Research Association (BRANZ) general manager of industry research Chris Litten said a consistent message emerged from its survey of the industry.

"We found that the culture of toxic masculinity is really rife.

"The 'take a concrete pill' and 'harden up' attitude is really prevalent in the industry.

"The really high-pressure nature of this industry around the boom and bust cycle, and we're in a boom cycle at the moment and that's really draining and stressful on people," Mr Litten said.

Rick Herd, chief executive of construction firm Naylor Love, said small business owners and workers face the most pressure to keep afloat.

"That is where I believe we'll find, when more research is completed, that the biggest issues around suicide and mental wellbeing are going to be most prevalent," said Mr Herd, also a member of Construction Health and Safety New Zealand.

"I think the report [puts] far too much emphasis on the factor of macho bullying and a toxic culture. I think that is overplayed."

He said the bullying culture had improved over the past decade.

WorkSafe chief executive Nicole Rosie said the safety agency was looking at all risks in the sector, including workers' mental health.

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