A research project on the prevalence of mental health problems in the mining industry is in the spotlight at the NSW Mining Health and Safety Conference.

Partnerships the key to mental health well-being

20 May 2014

NSW Mining has showed its continued commitment to mental health and well-being with a stream on 'being mentally healthy in the mining industry', at the NSW Mining Health and Safety Conference.

Earlier this year, NSW Mining released a Blueprint for Mental Health and Well-being, providing a high level guide to addressing the mental health and well-being of employees in the state's mining sector. The Blueprint was produced by the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, in conjunction with the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER).

Director of NIER, Dr Alan Broadfoot, said partnerships between the mining industry, researchers and mental health experts were vital to advancing knowledge and approaches to mental health interventions. 

"Data suggests that even if the mining workforce experienced mental ill-health at the same rates as the population, that would still mean up to 10,000 employees in NSW in any one year may experience a mental illness such as anxiety, depression or substance use disorders.

"We know mental health is an important issue for every industry. However, for approaches to be relevant and successful, they need to be supported and driven by that industry."

Director Hunter Institute of Mental Health, Jaelea Skehan, said there was strong evidence to support the workplace as a setting for mental health interventions.

"We know that workplaces are important partners in prevention. They offer a unique setting to promote mental health and well-being, prevent mental ill-health and to respond early and well to those experiencing mental illness."

Representatives from the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Institute of Mental Health will present on two –industry-funded programs at the Health and Safety Conference.

Brian Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry and the Interim Chair of a new Centre for Resources Health and Safety at NIER, will present on progress under an ACARP-funded Working Well project to investigate the prevalence of mental health problems, and trial multi-faceted interventions to address mental ill-health across Coal Mines in New South Wales and Queensland.

"An important component of Working Well is to ensure we listen to industry about the types of interventions they believe will be effective and sustainable, while also applying sound science and program design," Professor Kelly said.

"Interventions will start rolling out in NSW this month, including supervisor and leader training led by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health as well and employee and peer-based training delivered by Mates in Construction."

Given this week is also National Families Week, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health will present on the role of families in supporting people living with a mental illness.

This session coincides with the recent commencement of the Partners in Mining project funded by Coal Services Trust and being rolled out in the Hunter Valley by the Hunter Institute, in partnership with Coal Services Health.

"For every worker in NSW who experiences a problem with their mental health, there is likely to be another worker who is providing care and support for a family member who is experiencing depression, anxiety or a substance use problem," Hunter Institute Director Jaelea Skehan said.

"We know from the National Evaluation of the Partners in Depression program, that people providing care and support for someone with depression are more likely to also experience problems with their own mental health and well-being.

"We also know that with the provision of information, support and skills that people in caring roles can have that risk to their own wellbeing reduced.

"We are excited to be working with mine sites, Coal Services Health and community stakeholders in the Hunter Valley to adapt the Partners in Depression program for mining families," Ms Skehan said.