15 May 2023

OzHelp 2023 Suicide Awareness Ball aims to bring hope to thousands more in vulnerable industries

| Dione David
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People in hard hats on a construction site

OzHelp’s Tradies Tune-Up program in action. Photo: OzHelp.

Hope is both the theme and the driving force behind OzHelp’s 2023 Suicide Awareness Ball, which aims to reach thousands more Australians with its preventive initiatives.

At least 3144 Australians died by suicide in 2021, which on average is nine Australians every day, 75 per cent of which were men.

Staggering as the statistics are, they don’t come close to capturing the extent of the devastation, according to OzHelp CEO Hamish Thomson.

“There are over 65,000 attempts of suicide every year and 10 million Australian adults who know of someone who has died by suicide,” he said.

“These numbers are distressing, yet they don’t tell the full story of the impact on friends, family, colleagues, loved ones and broader society.”

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OzHelp is a national leader in providing health and wellbeing programs for workers, focusing on the high-risk, hard-to-reach industries of building and construction, transport and logistics, manufacturing, and farming and agriculture.

It was established in 2001 after David O’Bryan, a young building apprentice from Canberra, took his own life. That same year, three others connected to the ACT building and construction industry died by suicide within three months.

OzHelp’s Suicide Awareness Ball was founded in 2019 by two passionate Canberra Hospital Emergency Department nurses, Britt Shephard and Shannon Narracott.

MBA ACT CEO Michael Hopkins, OzHelp Foundation CEO Hamish Thomson and MBA ACT President Frank Porreca at an OzHelp Suicide Prevention Ball

MBA ACT CEO Michael Hopkins, OzHelp Foundation CEO Hamish Thomson and MBA ACT president Frank Porreca at an OzHelp Foundation networking event. Photo: Holly Williams.

This year’s event is sponsored by the Master Builders Association (MBA) ACT and promises a wonderful celebration MCd by popular media personality and carpenter by trade Tom Williams.

“We’re proud to partner with OzHelp on this event to raise much-needed funds for a range of programs including OzHelp’s Life Skills Toolbox Program with apprentices and their onsite Tradie Tune-Ups,” Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkin said.

“The volatile economic conditions combined with other pressures on the industry means we need OzHelp’s programs and services now more than ever.”

There will be live entertainment, a three-course dinner, a raffle and live and silent auctions featuring exclusive items donated by local businesses.

All proceeds will help fund OzHelp’s suicide prevention programs, providing on-the-ground suicide prevention and mental health training and support to workers across blue-collar industries with high rates of suicide.

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This year’s goal of $100,000 would allow the organisation to carry out an additional 1000 attendances in the ACT and beyond.

“That can actually make a difference before people get into deep trouble,” Hamish said.

The theme of “hope” at this year’s ball is reflected in three goals for the event – to raise awareness, celebrate the numerous organisations and individuals doing tremendous things in this space and fundraise to empower OzHelp to achieve its goals.

All three components are necessary to create hope for a better future for the sector.

“Unfortunately, the need is greater than ever within this sector. It is highly vulnerable and susceptible to mental ill health and suicide, and that impacts every single one of us because everyone knows people in these industries,” Hamish said.

“Only by working together as a community can we make the greatest difference in the lives of those affected by mental ill health and suicide.”

OzHelp interacts with construction workers

OzHelp focuses its mental health and suicide prevention programs on high-risk, hard-to-reach industries like building and construction, transport, and farming and agriculture. Photo: OzHelp.

Hamish said while consideration of mental health in workplace health and safety measures seemed to be on the rise, there was still much work to be done.

“I think most businesses in Australia have a strong sense of responsibility to look after their staff’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, but many don’t know where to start. And you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s where organisations like OzHelp can be incredibly helpful,” he said.

“Over $4 billion is lost in workplace productivity every year due to mental ill health. Costs associated with workers’ compensation claims and mental health-related absences are four to five times higher than other claims. It’s profoundly damaging to retention and workplace culture.

“The evidence shows that culturally when you have supportive early mental health educational programs and health screening, engagement and productivity go through the roof.

“But there are broader ramifications that go far beyond loss of productivity. There are many difficult – but necessary – conversations taking place, and many more to be had. We hope to celebrate them at the OzHelp Suicide Awareness Ball and hopefully, start many more.”

The OzHelp 2023 Suicide Awareness Ball will take place in the Great Hall at Parliament House on Saturday, 3 June, from 6 pm. Ticket sales close soon – visit OzHelp to purchase.

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