More than 20 delegates from around NSW participated in the day-long workshop hosted by the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources, working together to develop a “Roadmap for Mental Health” template document for use within the state’s mining sector.
NSW Minerals Council chief executive officer Stephen Galilee said now was the time to work up a collaborative strategy that could be adopted across the industry.
“We are serious about tackling mental health in our industry,” Galilee said.
“You only have to open the newspaper or turn on the television to know that mental health is a major issue in modern Australia, particularly in regional areas where our people live and work.
“Our objective is to get together, compare notes and hear from leading experts in the field of mental health and then use this information to create a useful set of guidelines that can then be adopted across NSW minesites.
“The outcome from the workshop will be a path forward for the many researchers, professionals and health and safety managers working in this complex and challenging area.
“It builds upon our commissioning of ‘Mental Health and the NSW Minerals Industry’ – a major publication prepared by the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Institute of Mental Health and launched earlier this year at our major Occupational Health and Safety conference.”
The report estimated between 8000-10,000 employees experienced a common mental health illness such as anxiety or depression over a 12-month period.
It found people across employment categories were affected equally and estimated costs, including lower productivity, were $320-450 million per year or about $300,000-400,000 for an average mine of 170 people.
University of Newcastle’s school of medicine and public health Professor Brian Kelly presented to workshop delegates, highlighting that mental health problems and their impact on workplace safety and productivity was a growing issue for the mining industry.
"When it comes to tackling mental health, prevention is key and workplaces are ideally positioned to address a range of mental health problems," Kelly said.
"We've seen this workplace-driven approach in other areas like the construction and defence sector and the growing industry support for the mining and mental health initiative is clearly an indication of the leadership and world-class reputation of Australian mining's health and safety policies.”
Kelly said there was no single solution but rather a need for a comprehensive and integrated approach across areas ranging from preventing mental illness and mental health problems to identifying them early.
People who were experiencing a mental illness in the workplace needed support to achieve full recovery at work where possible, he said.