Depression and mining: What to do if you're depressed

Man sitting in a park

Working in isolated regions can often take its toll on FIFO workers. Here's what to do if you're feeling depressed.

Working in isolated regions can often take its toll on mining workers. Long stints away from family, friends and loved ones, combined with super long hours means that mental health is often an issue that is top of mind for both workers and the companies who employ them.

According to beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett: “More than one in five Australian mining industry workers has experienced mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety in the past 12 months,” he said.

“But sadly, too many workplaces still do not realise the importance of their employees’ mental health.”

In 2013 Perth and Pilbara-based company Raw Hire worked with Lifeline to survey 924 FIFO and DIDO workers about their mental health. The study, one of Australia's biggest, uncovered stress, divorce, psychological disorders, a reliance on drugs and alcohol to cope, and a stigma attached to seeking help as being prevalent among WA workers.

If you're having a tough time due to personal issues such as a relationship breakdown, a death in the family, are struggling with being away from home or the FIFO isolation, or you're just prone to the black dog of depression, we've put together a simple checklist to help get you back on track:

6 mental health tips for FIFO workers

  1. Know your triggers: Everyone has them. If you are better when you're on a two-and-one swing because it gives you more time at home with family and friends and a stronger sense of connection, work to those strengths. Don’t take on four- and six-week contracts if you know it will be a challenge for you mentally.
  1. Alcohol: Drinking on site now and then can have its advantages, but if you're working really long days, are tired and feeling a bit blue, alcohol is unlikely to help. Know your limits and stick to them as much as possible.
  1. Exercise: Staying fit and healthy and looking after your body can also do wonders for your mental health. Many mining workers exercise every day. If you get into a good fitness habit it can really help keep depression at bay.
  1. Ask for help: If you’re struggling with something, talk to a friend about it. The adage is true: “A problem shared is a problem halved”. But if that doesn't help, don’t hesitate to connect with organisations such as beyondblue or The Black Dog Institute. Even taking that very first step will help you on your way to getting the support that you need.
  1. Take some time: Working with heavy machinery, or on tasks that are monotonous, when you’re not feeling mentally strong can be downright dangerous. Talk to your supervisor and take some time out if you can. Use that time to rest and recuperate and come back to work with a clear head.
  1. Talk about it: More than 85 per cent of mining workers are men and unfortunately men aren’t always known for talking through their problems. Mining is also a tough environment and it has often been said there is “no place for weakness”. But if you’ve been through depression and anxiety, be brave and talk about it to other people if you can. The social stigma of depression can only be changed if it’s bought out into the light, and showing you’ve survived a tough time makes you strong, not weak. Sharing your own experiences might just make someone else feel brave enough to do the same and even save a life.

For further help and support, contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

If it’s time for a new job in the mining industry, talk to the team at Mining People International.

Beverly Ligman
Mining People International