Bluehats - Incolink's Suicide Prevention Program gets its official relaunch.

Posted on Apr 28, 2021

Incolink’s Suicide Prevention Program, Bluehats, was relaunched with the aim to ramp-up efforts to address the high rate of suicide among Victoria’s construction work force. About 1 in 4 men who die by suicide in Victoria, work in the construction industry. Construction workers are also six times more likely to die by suicide than other workplace accidents.

In 2018, Incolink along with other Industry stakeholders decided that an industry-led action was required and launched Bluehats. Bluehats are real construction workers who complete voluntary training to create a peer-to-peer mental health support network in the workplace. As the name suggests, Bluehats-trained workers wear a blue hard hat which makes them easy to spot on site.

In the first 12 months of the program, Incolink counselling reported a 270% increase in presentations of suicidal ideation. With the recent support of sponsors, Cbus & WorkSafe Victoria, this relaunch will attempt to increase the size of the Bluehats program in the coming months and years.

Bluehats has delivered 195 GASs (General Awareness Session) to over 5000 workers across Victoria and Tasmania to date. The new model incorporates digital educational components for wider and faster program delivery along with learning ease for the Bluehats. This helped workers to understand the importance of mental health while knowing where to get help. “3318 suicides occurred in 2019 and that is unacceptable”, said Sharnarra Crawley, the Incolink Bluehats’ coordinator.

The Bluehats program has also entered a research partnership with The Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, led by Dr. Kylie King. Awarded by Suicide Prevention Australia, the project will have a dedicated focus on the construction industry and will help evaluate the effectiveness of the Bluehats Suicide Prevention program.

Dom Frisina, a Bluehat trained recently through the new model, shared his experience at the relaunch regarding volunteering to be a Bluehat and applying his training just hours after it was completed.

Ingrid Stitt, Minister for Workplace Safety spoke to the partnership with WorkSafe and provided strong government endorsement of the program. “Workers need to know that they can ask for help if they’re struggling... and that is the essence of what Bluehats has been for so many people.” “It’s power lies in being an industry-led initiative, people looking out for their mates.”

Rebecca Cassan, CEO of Master Builders, said “Bluehats program empowers workers to be leaders (in mental health for the industry)”.

John Setka, Secretary of CFMEU Vic-Tas, passionately described the effectiveness of the Bluehats Program. “I just think the concept is fantastic (and) we've got to drive it. Myself and our union will be part of driving that because I think it's important to break down barriers, so people are comfortable to talk to people." Mr Setka said.

Earl Setches, Secretary of PPTEU Victoria, and Incolink board member also expressed his support for the program whilst thanking Incolink staff and all involved for their hard work and dedication. "On behalf of the board of Incolink, I would like to congratulate everyone involved in putting together this program and the roll out.”

To find out more or to bring Bluehats to your site, visit Incolink Bluehats.

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