STAMPING out the “suck it up, princess” attitude that pervades some mining sites could be a good start for suicide prevention, one crisis support organisation believes.

As the parents of a young fly-in fly-out Pilbara mine worker who took his own life called for mining giants to do more to protect workers, those who have looked into the mental health of FIFO workers had plenty to say on the matter.

On the first anniversary of Rhys Connor’s death, his family released details of his suicide note and a video about his job just days before he died where he blamed FIFO for his relationship issues.

“You’re in the room every night of the week. You think about things,” he said in a video. “There’s people out there that seem to be fine and deep down they’re not.”

Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche said this state’s resources companies were at “the forefront of providing support for the physical and mental well-being of their employees”.

“The screening process for aspiring FIFO employees starts at the interview stage, where the lifestyle challenges and rewards are laid bare,” he said.bigstock_Dump_Trucks___236132

“Non-residential work arrangements do not suit everyone, and candidates must be honest with themselves and their families with respect to how well they can adjust.”

Mr Roche said QRC’s Guidance for Long Distance Commuting booklet had a self-evaluation test to help people decide if they were suitable for that work.

Lifelife Research Foundation executive director Alan Woodward said his organisation had identified the FIFO lifestyle needed support and was working on better ways to promote support options to workers.

He said the “suck it up princess” issue to dealing with troubles or stress arose during a study involving more than 900 Western Australia FIFO workers where one respondent summed up the unhelpful attitude.

“We would want to see that attitude diminished. It’s not helpful and gets in way of men seeking help when they need it,” he said.

Mr Woodward said many workers were able to identify techniques to look after themselves and look after their own mental health and wellbeing – such as getting good sleep, working on sleep patterns, having enough exercise and eating healthy foods.

He said they also knew how important it was to find ways to socially connect to family and loved ones even though they were away.

University of Queensland research fellow Jill Harris helped prepare the report “Factors linked to the well-being of Fly-In-Fly-Out workers”.

She said the “take home message” from the study was that miners were experiencing social isolation and loneliness on site and “ideally mining companies need to have strategies and interventions in place to care for them”.

Ms Harris said the study involved 144 young miners in WA and Queensland – all well-educated men and women, mostly engineers – but she feared for those workers with less satisfactory circumstances.

“What we found was that there was a strong association between social isolation and feelings of loneliness and depressive symptoms,” she said.

“Those people who felt more lonely or more social isolated also had more depressive symptoms.

“The support mechanisms that would normally be in place at home aren’t there.

“I think mining companies are beginning to become aware of this and putting things in place.”

A Griffith University study released last year found mining men who took their own lives were more likely to be reeling from a relationship breakdown than in other industries.

This article first appeared on ‘The Advocate’ on 29 July 2014.


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