Danish-born Jorgen Gullestrup migrated to Australia in 1988. A plumber by trade he has lived experience of mental illness and suicide related issues. His 2017 Churchill Fellowship was to investigate and understand approaches to workplace suicide prevention and mental health globally, across Europe and the USA.
\\The Fellowship enabled him to build on his experience in the field of workplace mental health and suicide prevention.
\\After arriving in Australia and working on various construction sites, Jorgen became an active member of the Queensland Plumbers Union, a union official, an EBA negotiator, Organiser and Assistant Secretary before becoming State Secretary of the union in 2001.
\\During this time, he lost several members to suicide. Each time it resonated deeply with him as he realised it could well have been his own family experiencing the grief he saw.
\\In 2007 he became the project manager of the Queensland Construction Industry Suicide Prevention Initiative. Statistics show that construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work. This project, which eventually became the MATES in Construction program (https://mates.org.au/) and charity, went national and eventually expanded to New Zealand. Sister programs for the Mining and Energy industries were created.
\\During his Churchill Fellowship he discussed the program with senior officials of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In the 2021 “Live Life: An implementation guide for suicide prevention in countries” (https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240026629) the WHO highlights MATES in Construction as an example of world’s best practice in building community capacity in suicide prevention.
\\In 2021 he set up his own consultancy Semicolon (www.semicolon.net.au)
– the symbol used to connect a sentence that otherwise would have ended. The key concept in his professional practice is connection – between individuals, connection within communities, connection to services and connection between services. Semicolon seeks to extend connections beyond the usual silos.
\\Jorgen is currently a confirmed PhD Candidate at Deakin University studying male help-offering in suicide prevention. He holds a Masters in Suicidology, a Graduate Certificate in Suicide Prevention Studies, a Diploma of Community Welfare and Development and an Associate Diploma of Labour Studies.
\\He is the author of published articles on Workplace suicide prevention and a book chapter on suicide prevention amongst men. He is an accomplished keynote speaker with keynote presentations in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Norway.
\\He is the 2018 Suicide Prevention Australia Life Award winner for leadership for the sector.