General News — 25 April 2012
Call for mental health care at mines

Mental health initiatives should be employed as standard safety measures on mine sites along with fluoro shirts and eye protection, a health organisation says.

The Australasian Centre for Rural & Remote Mental Health says depression, anxiety and stress remain largely hidden on mining sites despite posing a serious safety risk.

The centre’s chief executive Dr Jennifer Bowers says many mining companies are reluctant to spend money on programs that improve their employees’ mental health.

“It’s very acceptable now for everybody to wear their fluoro gear, to wear their protective gear, to be aware of all of the issues that they have to protect their safety and their health,” Dr Bowers told AAP.

“What’s not recognised is that if you don’t feel good about yourself, (or) you’ve got problems with your family or your mates, (or) you’re not functioning well, you’re over 40 per cent more likely to be at risk of a physical accident.”

Research is lacking but anecdotal evidence suggests mine workers are suffering depression and other mental health problems because they are subject to various stresses.

These include time away from family, long shifts, harsh environments, and dangerous jobs that demand high levels of concentration.

“People disclose to us some of the issues they face which they might not normally do because it’s not a safe environment to say anything,” Dr Bowers said.

“People will not declare it in those macho, ‘suck it up, princess’ sorts of environments.”

She says mining companies must invest in initiatives that speak to miners in their own language.

Posters that read “Don’t tell me to harden the f*** up, just talk to me” and presentations by Redgum singer-songwriter John Schumann are among the interventions that have already been successfully implemented on mine sites by the centre.

Some far-sighted companies had committed to the mental health programs but many directors and senior executives of other companies were reluctant to spend the money, Dr Bowers said.

“It’s really, really hard to get them to see that it’s a cost-effective approach which will improve productivity and ultimately profit,” she said.

As first appeared on NineMSN, 23 April 2012

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