Meeting mental health and well-being needs

By Wieteke Hoey, director at Harness New Zealand.

It’s essential we take a preventative approach to mental health, especially in the construction industry. It’s been widely reported that our construction industry has the highest prevalence of suicide compared to any other industry. 

According to the Suicide Mortality Review Committee (2016), 6.9 percent of all suicides are people from within the construction industry followed by agriculture and forestry at 6.8 percent.

 In fact, workers in the construction industry are six times more likely to die from suicide than from a workplace accident (BRANZ, 2018). The tragedy of a death reaches far and wide affecting everyone including ourselves, family/whanau, friends and the wider community.

The overall construction industry impressively employs about 250,000 people and contributes $15 billion to the economy each year.

Everyone benefits from increased awareness about well-being as well as having instant access to tools and resources for coping.

However, by knowing one in five New Zealanders will experience mental illness or distress at some point in their lives, we can confidently say at least 50,000 people in the construction industry will need to know how to recognise the signs of not feeling OK, know which coping strategies to use and if needed, be able to ask for help to prevent a crisis.

The construction industry is diverse with a variety of different occupations. At Harness NZ, we understand, each occupation and every workplace is unique from its environmental set up to the company values, culture, the workers and pressures which everyone is under.

The effect of workplace wellbeing has been researched thoroughly. The evidence overwhelmingly indicates by investing in the well-being of our workers, improved well-being will support businesses to perform at a higher level and be more profitable because:

  • They are creating a workplace to be mentally healthy and psychologically safe.
  • Their business will be able to increase work flow and improve the quality of work because the workers will be more able to focus on the task at hand.
  • By optimising the team culture, attract and retain workers more easily.
  • They create an organisational reputation for being a good employer.
  • Communication among workers will be more effective and professional.
  • Individuals will be more resourced and upskilled in their coping strategies to deal with day to day pressures of work and home life.

According to a Deloitte Study (2017), for every dollar spent on creating better mental health within the workplace, an average Return on Investment (ROI) is $4.20.

More specifically, this is because by improving wellbeing it reduces absenteeism and presenteeism, improves team morale and loyalty, reduces staffing turnover, and less accidents and injuries occur.

At Harness NZ, we offer individual workshops or well-bring programmes which vary between 3-12 months in length that include an assessment of your organisation (focused on its mental health and wellbeing), workshops and coaching. Our workshops are engaging, relevant and supportive. The duration are between 90minutes and 3 hours however can adapted to fit around how you run your business. We see coaching as being key to creating sustainable change for individuals and businesses.

Some of our workshops include:

  • Spotlight on mental health – general awareness and practical skills for coping
  • Leading from the front – mental health and wellbeing in leadership roles
  • Let’s Talk – effective communication with a focus on conflict resolution in teams
  • Alcohol and drug education
  • Enhancing team culture
  • Creating work life balance
  • Bully and harassment prevention
  • Mindfulness/grounding techniques.  

If you would like to see your business and workers thrive, you can find out more about Harness NZ on or send an email to to arrange a free no obligation consultation.

Wieteke Hoey spent 14 years working as an occupational therapist around the world across various mental health settings. She offers her services as a consultant and educator to the construction sector to help address its mental health and well-being needs.

National helplines

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor 

Lifeline– 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666 

Author: ContrafedPublishing

Account manager at Contrafed Publishing - look after advertising and digital media/marketing for the company's suite of magazines.

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