A note on mental health and the mining industry


In MPi’s June 2021 poll, we want to find out how well the mining industry responds to employees experiencing mental health difficulties. Have your say!

One in five Australians between the ages of 16 and 85 experiences a mental health condition in any one year.

That’s not in a lifetime, that is every year, according to a 2020 report by the Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report defines a mental illness as a clinically diagnosable disorder that significantly interferes with a person’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities. Among the most common conditions are depression, anxiety or a substance use disorder.

Yet research shows 54% of people do not access any treatment or support for mental health conditions. These statistics are astounding, especially when you consider a 2018 report that two in three trips to a GP are for psychological reasons.

Let’s say there are 20 million Australians falling into the above age range (about 80% of 25 million people). That means there are four million people in Australia experiencing a mental health condition every single year. And more than half of them don’t access help!

If we do a rough, “back of the envelope” calculation of the mining industry (which employs about 250,000 people across the country) then that’s 50,000 people experiencing a mental health condition in our industry in any given year — and 25,000 of them are not getting the help they need.

Whether it be through trying to tough it out, not knowing where to ask for help, or just experiencing a feeling of helplessness or isolation, the fact that two million people suffer in silence across Australia (and 25,000 in the mining industry) cannot be an acceptable number.

POLL RESULTS: How does the mining industry treat mental health?

Mental Health Week and the mining industry

In 2017 Mining People conducted a poll to find out how the mining industry treats mental health. We had 130 responses. Here’s what they looked like:

Approximately 130 or so respondents, admitted either suffering themselves, or knowing someone who suffered mental health issues. We then asked those 130 people two very simple questions, with the following results:

1. What action did you (or they) take?

a)      Did nothing


b)     Resigned 


c)      Sought support from outside the industry     


d)     Accepted help from the company’s employee assistance program            


2. Would you say the company was supportive and proactively offered genuine assistance?

a)      Yes  


a)      No 


It was a fascinating exercise – although the results were not hugely encouraging. (You can read our full report here.) But since then there has been a lot of mainstream focus on mental health issues and a lot has been done to raise awareness of them in the past four years. So MPi is revisiting mental health in another poll this month (June 2021). You can take part here.

FURTHER READING: Mental health in the mining industry: expert response

The industry has for too long made the news for not seeming to do enough about the higher rates of suicide and mental illness it experiences. Let’s all work to turn it around - whether that’s asking a colleague how they are doing or, perhaps, initiating a companywide policy change.

Change begins with each of us.

Throughout June 2021, the Mining People team is taking part in the Push Up Challenge to support mental health. Find out more here.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International