Mental health issues are as common in the Mining, Construction and Crushing & Screening Industries as they are in the wider community. Worldwide, one in five people experience mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. There are issues specific to our industries that can exacerbate Mental Health problems and hinder the recognition and acknowledgment of them. Mental health issues can impact workplace safety, the wellbeing of employees and reduce productivity.
What is mental health?
The World Health Organisation states that good mental health is a state of wellbeing, whereby an individual can work productively, cope with the stresses of everyday life, contribute and realise their potential. However, for many of us, factors can impact on this and at some stage during our lives we experience problems that affect our mental health.
An example of anxiety from Beyond Blue:
What affects mental health?
We all feel stress at times, and some stress is good to motivate us to achieve and overcome things, which can give us a sense of accomplishment and resilience. However, when stressors move from being challenges to a being a threat, this can elicit stronger stress responses and potentially anxiety and even depression. Ongoing chronic stress can affect both the physical and mental health of a person.
Stress comes in many shapes and forms and is different for everyone, for many arises when a close friend or loved one passes, after an accident, after an injury or due to health concerns. Social factors can also cause stress; financial problems and family issues such as breakups or domestic violence can significantly impact a person’s mental health.
Workplace issues and stress
Within the workplace, fatigue can be a factor in developing mental health issues. Fatigue may be a result of shift work, long hours, or personal issues and can affect the overall wellbeing of an individual.
Bullying in the workplace can affect people in many ways. ‘Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a risk to health and safety’ (Headsup.org.au). It can cause stress and anxiety, a feeling of isolation which may lead to depression, physical injuries, concentration problems, loss of a person’s self-confidence and many other health effects.
Some bullying behaviours may include:
The following are not examples of bullying as stated by (https://www.headsup.org.au/supporting-others/workplace-bullying) :
Alcohol and Drugs
This can apply to both work and home life. One of the consequences of alcohol and drugs can be mental health issues. It is important to recognise mental health, no matter the cause.
FIFO and isolated work environments
Research has shown that workers who fly-in and fly-out for work are at greater risk of mental health issues. FIFO requires the worker to work in locations distant from their usual place of residence, often in camps where food and lodgings are provided. The worker is away from family and friends for extended periods, which can also place strain and stress on the partners and family at home.
The long hours, FIFO and stressful high risk jobs of the Mining Industry can create an environment where mental health problems can emerge. These issues are not only troubling for the individuals but they can also impact other employees and the overall business. A reduction in staff morale, an increase in absenteeism and a reduction in productivity can be related to mental health issues in the workplace. It is in the best interest of the Mining Industry and respective workplaces, that a culture of acceptance and support of those struggling with mental illness is developed.
What do we need to make a mentally healthy workplace?
‘Mentally healthy workplaces are those that people look forward to attending, are open to individuals’ needs, and where employees and managers are flexible and supportive of each other’ The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC Chairman, beyondblue.
A mentally healthy workplace from Heads up (Beyond Blue)! https://youtu.be/qHauSSaNWck
Businesses and leaders should develop the following attributes within the workplace:
How can we help ourselves and others? “It ain’t weak to speak” - LIVIN
While a mentally healthy workplace is a collaborative effort between management leaders and staff, the following are suggestions that can help individuals help themselves and others:
Providing a mentally healthy workplace requires a collaboration between workers and management. The workplace is always changing, and this will be an ongoing process requiring continuous improvement and commitment in order to be maintained. Not only does this strategy protect and benefit workers, it ‘enhances an organisation’s reputation as an employer of choice.’ (WA, Dept. Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety 2019, Code of Practice – Mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO). It also improves productivity which is better for the business’s bottom line.
We spend such a large part of our life at work, ideally that would be in an environment we want to be in. A place where workers want to work and are engaged, motivated and supported. Hopefully this is then carried out into the wider community, improving the quality of life for workers’ families as well.
Heads up is an initiative by Beyond Blue to create mentally healthy workplaces. You are able to join Heads up and receive up to date news and developments regarding mental health in the workplace. They also provide; tools to develop action plans, educational resources, information on legislation and responsibilities and help you make your workplace more productive, which will ultimately improve you bottom line.
The Black Dog Institute also has a workplace program and toolkit to help business’s become mentally healthier. It is also a researched based Institute that is focused on implementing findings from the research, to produce better health opportunities for people with mental illness.
‘MateCheck is a responsive, technology-enabled health, wellbeing and safety platform that bridges a crippling gap for employees who need support, but have no access to a solution. The beauty of MateCheck is how easy we’ve made it to access — employees can interact through their smartphones or tablets. What’s more, this unique technology also gives them access to support from MateCheck’s expert psychologists and health professionals, or your chosen EAP provider.’
‘The MateCheck platform gains a temperature pulse of the mental health and wellbeing within the workplace in real time. Our platform also screens for potential risk, both for the individual and the organisation. This includes areas such as fatigue, depression and excessive stress. This is achieved by asking employees to rate themselves on a consistent basis in five key areas relating to stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue and overall wellbeing.’
Heads up also has resources for individuals who are dealing with, or supporting people who have mental health issues.
LIVIN #itaintweaktospeak is an organisation focussed on taking the stigma out of mental health. They promote encouraging people to talk about and open up about mental health. Through their merchandise, education programs and community involvement they aim to start the conversation and make this happen.
The Black dog institute is ‘recognised as a pioneer in the identification, prevention and treatment of mental illness, and the promotion of wellbeing.’ (The Black Dog Institute) The website has many tools and resources to assist anyone dealing with mental health issues.
Is an online free personal self-help toolkit, run by The Black Dog Institute to help with mental health issues.
Mining Family Matters is a support network for mining families providing professional support and resources to help families cope with the challenges of FIFO.
The happiness trap website includes some self-help tools for managing mental health, it gives a different perspective on developing a more meaningful life.
The Big picture (Research and Policies)
Blueprint for Mental Health and Wellbeing – NSW Mining (NSW Minerals Council)
Inquiry into mental illness in fly-in, fly-out workers – Beyond Blue
Improving employee mental health and wellbeing in the mining industry - International Council of mining & metals
Impact of FIFO work arrangements on the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers – WA Mental Health Commission September 2018
Guidance about mental health and wellbeing – Government of Western Australia Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety
People and communities – Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace – The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia
WA, Dept. Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety 2019, Code of Practice – Mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO