Mining industry tackles mental health challenges

Thursday, 15 November, 2012

Senior mine safety representatives and health professionals have gathered in the Hunter to map out a comprehensive approach to tackling mental health and illness in the NSW minerals industry.

Over 20 delegates from around NSW participated in the day-long workshop hosted by the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), working together to develop a ‘Roadmap for Mental Health’ template document for use within the state’s mining sector.

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said that mining companies are doing a great job of managing mental health at an individual mine site level and now is the time to work up a collaborative strategy that can be adopted across the industry. “We are serious about tackling mental health in our industry,” Galilee said.

The Mental Health and the NSW Minerals Industry report - a publication prepared by the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Institute of Mental Health - found an estimated average of between 8000 to 10,000 employees experienced a common mental health illness like anxiety or depression over a 12-month period, that people across employment categories are affected equally and that estimated costs including lower productivity are between $320 to $450 million per year or around $300,000 to $400,000 for an average mine of 170 people.

Prof Brian Kelly from the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle presented to workshop delegates, highlighting that mental health problems and their impact on workplace safety and productivity is a growing issue for the mining industry.

“When it comes to tackling mental health, prevention is key and workplaces are ideally positioned to address a range of mental health problems,” Prof Kelly said.

“We’ve seen this workplace-driven approach in other areas like the construction and defence sector, and the growing industry support for the mining and mental health initiative is clearly an indication of the leadership and world-class reputation of Australian mining’s health and safety policies.

“There is no single solution, rather a need for a comprehensive and integrated approach across areas ranging from preventing mental illness and mental health problems, identifying them early and supporting people who are experiencing a mental illness in the workplace to achieve full recovery at work where possible.

“I commend the NSW Minerals Council in bringing the relevant parties together today and for continuing to treat mental health as an area of real priority within the NSW mining industry.”

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