A partnership improving the mental health of young men in construction

Karyn Starmer15 April 2021
Workers onsite at Geocon's Grand Central Towers in Woden

Construction company Geocon has forged a strong partnership with Menslink to support young men in the building industry. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

As a company whose roots began in construction, Geocon is keenly aware of the prevalence of men’s health issues in the construction industry.

With research showing that workers in the industry are at high risk of experiencing some form of mental illness, and men comprising 80 per cent of Geocon’s construction workforce, a partnership with Menslink was an easy fit for the Canberra-based firm.

Menslink has been supporting young men in the Canberra region for more than 15 years by encouraging them to speak up and get help, or inspire their mates to get help. It also provides intensive short-term counselling to help them get through stressful life events and provide longer-term mentoring support from positive male role models.

At the suggestion of a staff member, the two organisations paired up in 2010 and together they have made a real impact.

Geocon general manager construction Damon Smith says the company wanted to throw its support behind an organisation that supports young men who may need help getting through tough times.

“So many young people have a tough upbringing with no male mentors or help to stabilise some of the difficult situations life can present,” he says. “And we know that many of our workers will face mental health issues every day.

“The industry with the highest rate of male suicide is construction. This is a confronting issue and obviously close to home for a lot of us, and one of the many reasons Geocon is supporting Menslink.

“We think it is important to support a charity that will directly benefit our local people, particularly one that might make a real difference to the lives of our individual employees.”

Geocon's Damon Smith and Nick Georgalis on building site

Geocon general manager construction Damon Smith (left) with Geocon managing director Nick Georgalis (right). Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Damon says many of the older cohort of workers now volunteer as mentors, and staff have shown enthusiastic support for the many fundraising initiatives Geocon has arranged with Menslink. Last year’s High Society Stair Dash saw construction site competitors race up 28 flights of stairs at Geocon’s Republic development, which raised $30,000.

“The uptake for the stair climb challenge was huge,” says Damon. “The guys onsite took it up with both hands. It was so popular we plan on running the event again in 2021 and this time we will open up entries to the general public.”

During the 11-year partnership, Geocon has raised more than $100,000 for Menslink through initiatives such as the stair climb, chicken nugget eating competitions, onsite barbecues and corporate donations. A five-day Canberra Centenary Trail walk is planned for later this year.

Menslink CEO Martin Fisk

Menslink CEO Martin Fisk. Photo: Supplied.

“Geocon is our biggest sponsor and supporter and we couldn’t do what we do to help young men and their families without their support,” says Menslink chief executive officer Martin Fisk. “The work they are doing to support the younger members of their workforce, their kids and nephews has just been sensational.

“It is important to send the message that being both physically well and mentally healthy go together. We have been able to help a number of staff get through some tough times with relationship breakdowns and dealing with a death in the family.

“The Geocon staff mentoring program mirrors the Menslink mentoring program and they are making a real impact. It’s really important to bring the community together and I think Geocon does a great job.”

For more information on some of the great work being done for young men, visit Menslink and Geocon.

Original Article published by Karyn Starmer on The RiotACT.

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