By Mariska Murphy
A new study has found one-in-five miners suffer from mental illness, including depression and anxiety.
Australia’s billion-dollar mining industry is undoubtedly booming, but the health of its workers is not.
Research from the New South Wales based Hunter Institute has found up to 10,000 mining employees have mental health issues, including substance abuse.
A ‘macho mining culture’, as it is called in the report, seems to be stopping male mining workers from opening up about their problems.
Trevor Hazel, director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, says because 90 per cent of the mining workforce is male, the figures are not surprising.
“I wouldn’t necessarily use the term ‘macho’, but men are known for putting up with symptoms, even symptoms of physical illness,” he says.
“They may put up with breathlessness, they may put up with pain, and similarly they put up with psychological discomfort.”
He also says managers experience symptoms and recommends they show leadership in asking for help.
“How do these managers manage their own psychological discomfort, and could they be perhaps showing leadership,” Mr Hazel says.
“That it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to discuss the issue.”
One of the major causes of depression is a lack of job security in the mining industry.
Jim Valery, Queensland district secretary from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, says the number of insecure work arrangements has increased not only in the state’s mining industry, but across Australia.
He says one of the biggest issues is the long hours of commuting to and from remote working locations.
“There are people who do enjoy commute arrangements, but people who are forced into it and then through being forced into it don’t have the availability of their family and other people for a support,” he says.
The mental health report was released yesterday by the Minerals Council at an occupational health conference in the Hunter Valley.