General News — 16 July 2012

Mental illness affects one in three mine workers.

This compares to one in five of the general Australian population.

And the problem in mining and remote rural areas is being compounded by stigma, popular myths and the “macho” culture.

These findings are part of a research paper written by Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health chief executive officer Dr Jennifer Bowers.

“It’s a hidden and potentially very significant issue,” Dr Bowers said.

“Every form of mental illness can be found within populations that work within the mining and resource sector.”

Dr Bowers said some companies could be reactive rather than proactive about handling mental health issues.

It was difficult to get management to sign off on resources for preventative and proactive strategies, she said.

“Given there are over 230,000 Australians directly employed in the mining, resources and remote construction sectors, the one in three ratio means that about 76,000 of them will suffer some sort of mental ill-health every year,” she said.

“We are gradually making in-lines… unfortunately some of them come after a suicide, after a traumatic event.”

And there is more to mental illness than depression.

Dr Bowers said other common mental health disorders in rural and remote Australia include anxiety, acute stress disorder, social phobias, destructive thinking and substance abuse disorders.

“Mental health is just as important as physical health and health and safety,” Dr Bowers said.

“These conditions can and do lead to relationship breakdowns, social alienation, personal misery and, in extreme cases, suicide.

“People who do work out in a remote setting are at greater risk… this includes fly-in/fly-out and drive-in/drive-out workers.”

As first appeared in Mackay Daily Mercury

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