Bosses join forces to save lives

Angela Pownall – The West Australian on June 2, 2016

Heads of WA’s biggest employers have collaborated for the first time to try to tackle suicide from within the workplace.

WA’s suicide toll is rising, with eight people taking their own lives every week on average, compared with the three lives lost on WA’s roads on average every week.

Chief executives from about 20 of WA’s biggest private companies joined directors-general of key public agencies at Government House for the frank discussion about the workplace and suicide.

The event, where an estimated 40 per cent of WA’s workforce was represented, was organised by the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention, which advises the State Government on the issue.

John Flecker, chief executive of Brookfield Multiplex, said the construction industry was late in starting to tackle mental illness and suicide prevention. “The startling statistic for me that came out was that for every unfortunate fatality in the construction industry from a safety incident, there are six suicides,” he said.

The round table heard that escalating change from the economic downturn, technology and less job security and stability, was putting increased stress on workers.

Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention chairman Neale Fong said people spent about a third of their lives at work, making the workplace a key area to target for suicide prevention.

“Everyone wants to get on board to say safety has become a high priority,” he said. “We’ve got to make a safe workplace and a safe workplace includes a mentally healthy workplace.”

Andrew Harding, chief executive of Rio Tinto iron ore, said as a big employer with many remote employees, the company had been dealing with the issue for some time.