Talking about the tough stuff

R U OK? has teamed up with former rugby star Wendell Sailor to launch its new suicide prevention campaign aimed at fly-in fly-out workers.

Staff Reporter

The R U OK? field initiative aims to foster a culture where workmates start talking about mental health issues with each other regularly, particularly on isolated mine sites.

Sailor launched the initiative today in Mackay.

“When work takes you away from home for long periods, workmates become family,” Wendell said.

“As men, we need to step up and regularly ask ‘are you ok?’ because it’s not always obvious when someone’s struggling. Everyone can ask someone to help make a difference.”

A senate report into FIFO work practices in Australia earlier this year revealed growing concern about the impact that FIFO and DIDO jobs had on mental health.

More recent research released last month examining the challenges faced by FIFO workers uncovered an unsympathetic, “suck it up” workplace culture when it came to coping with job stress.

Dubbed one of the largest studies into the mental wellbeing of employees working split rosters, more than 900 anonymous staff in Western Australia provided insights into the benefits and challenges of the growing lifestyle.

“Overall, the majority of FIFO workers maintained a ‘suck it up princess, you just do it’ approach to their FIFO role and coping,” the report noted.

“A significant number of FIFO workers spoke of using alcohol and/or illicit drugs to manage disrupted sleep and stress.”

Janina Nearn, CEO and co-founder of R U OK?, said the new campaign was part of the foundation’s strategy to boost protective factors in remote communities to prevent similar situations.

“Many of these Australians are living in temporary accommodation away for periods of time from their usual social networks and families,” Nearn said.

“It is therefore critical that these workplaces become supportive communities and individuals take a proactive interest in the wellbeing of workmates.”

With the number of Australian FIFO and DIDO workers expected to continue to grow, Nearn said that the initiative and the support it had received from the industry, including BHP Billiton and the MAC Services Group, was critical in preventing serious problems, particularly in men.

“We know that many men are reluctant to get involved in issues that may touch on emotions or personal challenges.

“The new R U OK? field materials use humour and a direct style to remind people that being a mate means talking about issues before they become a crisis.”

R U OK? field resources will be available to download from July 25 at www.ruokday.com under the ‘Resources For You’ tab.

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