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Talking construction industry mental health on CQUni podcast

Published:01 April 2021

CQUniversity PhD student Michael Bowles.

When Brisbane dad and estimating manager Michael Bowles wasn’t coping, the first step to recovery was just talking.

Now at CQUniversity researching his PhD on suicide in the construction industry, he’s busier than ever – and talking more than ever.

The CQUni Bachelor of Construction Management alumnus has shared his journey in the industry, and onto graduate research, in CQUniversity’s new podcast How to Change a Life.

Mr Bowles explains that he began his research after experiencing his own mental health challenges.

"I’ve been in construction as I said since the start of 2007, and had huge working hours, it was extremely stressful," he said.

"I work in an estimating role so you estimate all the costs, and I was at that stage every night, I would wake up in the middle of the night and think, have I allowed for this, have I allowed for this?"

Juggling the work with study and parenting, Mr Bowles says he struggled to talk about his anxiety and stress.

"It came to a point where it was almost my health and my marriage, or my work," he explained.

"That’s the whole thing in regards to mental health, I was one of those people who would hate to speak out, and it took me four or five years to actually have the courage to speak to someone about it."

Having lived through those challenges,  Mr Bowles hopes his research will support the construction industry to create a better environment for mental health.

"An Australian construction worker will commit suicide every two days, but you don’t hear about that," he said.

"But obviously if that is happening, there is something wrong with the industry, and I think it’s the industry as a whole needs to look at what's driving that - for instance if you work 80 hours a week, what's that stress doing to workers, and what are the impacts for your organisation."

"There is actually no research out there at the moment about how the suicide of a construction worker impacts an organisation and its staff, so I'm looking specifically at how it impacts productivity, as well as just the emotional devastation for families and friends."

The episode also features CQUniversity head of course for Positive Psychology Adam Gerace, who explains the PERMA model for wellbeing and happiness, encompassing Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments.

How to Change a Life is hosted by Mary Bolling from CQUniversity Communications.

Listen and subscribe to How to Change a Life by CQUniversity Podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or at https://howtochangealife.podbean.com/ for new episodes every Monday.