The mental health of fly-in, fly-out miners is increasingly gaining more attention in the resources industry.
Gryphon Pyschology provided statistical information to the latest Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into the Mental Health Impacts of FIFO workers, and director Naomi Armitage has shared those results with the Australasian Mining Review.
EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM DATA
As part of Gryphon Psychology’s Employee Assistance Programs, client organisations are provided with detailed de-identified data on referral rates, nature of referrals, impact of referrals and other relevant information.
The top three referral reasons accounting for over sixty per cent of referrals to EAP consist of depression/anxiety symptoms, relationships issues and family issues, which is consistent for FIFO, DIDO and residential populations. These trends are consistent with the general population.
When looking at EAP data a good and effective EAP should be accessed by around five per cent of the workforce. A low referral rate could suggest the EAP is not widely known about or accepted amongst the workforce. Gryphon Psychology’s average referral rate across client organisations is 7-10 per cent.
A high referral rate does not suggest more mental health issues in the workforce, but instead suggests greater help seeking behaviour, which is a positive sign that employees are identifying when they need help and are seeking assistance. We attribute our high referral rates to the fact 93 per cent of our sessions are delivered face to face by one of our employed psychologists ensuring a responsive, reliable and effective intervention.
CRITICAL INCIDENT RESPONSE DATA
Critical Incidents are defined as sudden, unexpected events that put those involved or associated with the incident under great threat, sometimes resulting in debilitation, mental and emotional reactions. Critical Incidents on work sites include workplace injuries, sudden death due to medical conditions, vehicle or machinery incidents or near-misses, or suicide of a worker on site.
Between April 17, 2013, and April 17, 2014, in our role as a provider of emergency counselling and support, Gryphon Psychology psychologists were deployed to respond to 50 Critical Incidents that occurred during this time. These incidents related to events which occurred at both FIFO/DIDO and residential sites.
Of the 50 Critical Incidents that Gryphon Psychology responded to, five (10 per cent) of these related to a suicide. Of this number, four involved a residential worker and one related to a DIDO worker. It should be noted attempted suicides were not recorded in these figures.
This data should be interpreted with caution given it is only a snap shot of a broader picture. What is evident when working with the mining and resource sector is that the demographic of the workforce is consistent with those who may be more likely to experience a mental health issue.
MENTAL HEALTH REVIEW
Gryphon Psychology have developed a Mental Health Review tool which assists organisations to develop a strategic plan to better understand and determine if any potential risks to employees mental health are present and make recommendations to control these risks.
The Mental Health Review examines three key areas that impact on mental wellbeing:
- Organisational design factors
- Work factors
- Individuals factors
Mental health education is one strategy to address mental health in the workplace, but is not enough. You can teach someone to be resilient, but put them into a toxic workplace and they will come out a quivering mess. Many of our clients are already working to address these factors from a holistic perspective by providing mental health education, peer support training, supervisor mental health training and job design analysis.
Another issue of concern is the availability of regional mental health support services across Queensland. Gryphon Psychology has permanent clinics employing residential psychologists in the main mining locations across the Bowen Basin, including Moranbah, Dysart, Emerald, Blackwater, Tieri and Mackay.
Often we are the only permanent psychology provider in the location. Our client organisations value providing resources to the local communities they operate from, hence their support for a local EAP program which brings psychology resources into the town permanently. The limited government mental health services and not-for-profit services in these regions is an identified need for both residents and commuting employees and families.
Addressing mental health in the workplace is not an area only confined to FIFO or mining, but it is a larger community issue. No silver bullet exists to rectify these issues and an approach that considers organisational factors, work factors and individual factors is key to a successful intervention.
Naomi Armitage has been working in the mining industry as a psychologist and human resources practitioner for over 15 years. She is the director of Gryphon Psychology.
Gryphon Psychology is part of the BSS Group of partners who specialise in providing Employee Assistance programs (EAP) and Fitness for Work services exclusively to the resource and heavy industry sector across Australia. The BSS Group provides coverage to approximately 160,000 workers of FIFO, DIDO and residential employment arrangements.