Construction company launches mental health campaign after boss loses brother to suspected suicide

After his brother and partner in the family construction business died by suspected suicide, Chris Hughes wasn't sure what to tell his staff.

Should he tell them the truth or should the family keep the circumstances of Jonny Hughes' death on New Year's Eve secret?

The 31-year-old father of two young children had been battling depression and had work and relationship problems but still his death came as a shock, Chris Hughes said.

"We didn't realise how bad it was. You can't help but asking yourself what more you could have done so he didn't get to that point."

The Switched On Group chief executive talked about what to tell staff with his father and sister, who also work in the company.

It was a difficult decision to make with the shock and grief of losing Jonny still raw. But they had noticed staff struggling with mental health in the months prior. They were working with the Mental Health Foundation on ways to open conversations about it within the construction industry, which has the highest suicide rate of any sector in New Zealand.

A report from Site Safe last month showed the number of suicides in the sector had risen over the past four years, with 339 suicides recorded between 2007 and 2017. The report identified contributing factors including job insecurity, long working hours, masculine culture, social isolation, substance abuse and relationship issues.

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