The University of Newcastle, Australia

Mining and mental health

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Researchers from across Australia will attend a forum in Newcastle tomorrow to discuss mental health in mining and other related industries.

Professor Brian Kelly 2This event brings together leaders in research and practitioners to review current approaches, explore challenges, and discuss strategies to improve the mental health and well-being of the mining workforce.

The Mental Health and Mining Research Forum is being hosted by a local consortium including the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), University of Newcastle and the Hunter Institute of Mental Health.

The forum comes off the back of the establishment of a collaborative research program led by the University of Newcastle together with the Hunter Institute of Mental Health and the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health ensuring the organisations works together to improve the mental health of people working in the minerals industry. Coordinated under the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources, this program is working alongside industry partners.

The group is leading an innovative research project, funded under the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) to look at mental health and well-being in the Coal Mining Industry across New South Wales and Queensland.

This research will give a first-ever snapshot of the extent of mental health problems in the coal mining industry as well as piloting targeted interventions to address mental health problems and maximise wellbeing.

Brian Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Newcastle, leads the ACARP funded research program and said the forum was a valuable opportunity for researchers and industry to work together on positive outcomes for the mining workforce.

"The forum brings together researchers from across the country working in this emerging field. By exchanging knowledge and sharing experiences, we can identify the best way to move forward with our industry partners to learn more about mental health in the workplace.

"Research into mental health and mining is occurring in a number of universities and research centres in Australia with the potential for collaboration between researchers and industry in this emerging area," he said.

The forum will bring together researchers from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland as well as representatives from the minerals industry and other organisations leading work in workplace mental health, such as beyondblue.

To coincide with the event, beyondblue will release its report, Workplace mental illness and substance use disorders in male dominated industry, an Australian-first literature review of anxiety, depression and substance use conditions in male-dominated industries.

The review provides a range of strategies that can help these industries, including the mining sector, tackle these issues. beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO said the findings explained how employers could address risk factors for mental health conditions and how they could create supportive workplaces that understand the impact of these conditions.

"This review has given us a valuable insight into how male dominated industries can tackle mental health conditions," she said.

"Its findings are particularly relevant for the mining sector, which is one of Australia's most male dominated industries.

"Good mental health in the workplace is a win-win situation for employers and employees alike, which is why we hope the mining sector acknowledges the findings of this review and works towards creating mentally healthy workplaces."

Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, Jaelea Skehan said it is important that researchers and industry work together to support and create the conditions for improved mental health in the workplace.

"We know there has been a lot of discussion about the value of addressing mental health and wellbeing through the workplace, but we also have to identify the most effective ways to do that based on research evidence and the specific needs of industries such as mining.

"It is our hope that the forum will lead to further collaboration in research and practice to ensure best mental health outcomes for communities" she said.

The forum is being held at Marina Views Function Centre in Newcastle.

  • Carmen Swadling, Media and Public Relations
  • Phone: +61 2 4985 4276 and 0428 038 477.

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