New mental health strategy changing 'tudes

A MENTAL health program being rolled out for underground mining contractor Byrnecut Australia is going beyond onsite brochures – with a focus on shifting the ‘harden up’ culture heavily ingrained in the sector.

Lauren Barrett

Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health CEO Dr Jennifer Bowers said the long-term mental health and wellbeing initiative, dubbed Minds in Mines had been rolled out at two Byrnecut sites, with a view to extending it to all of its Australian sites.

“Early feedback and evaluation data from the 200 employees after six months of program activity is very exciting,” Bowers said.

“Perhaps most importantly, 99% of employees agree that mental health is a significant issue in their sector and that it needs to be addressed.

“A further 98% responded that having information on mental health and emotional wellbeing is helping them understand and deal with their own issues.”

Byrnecut Australia’s group safety manager, Peter Hallman, said the program was about driving a cultural shift.

“We absolutely understand and accept that someone with a mental health problem is at higher risk of having an incident,” he said.

“It’s about breaking down that ‘harden up’ culture and we’ll only achieve this with ongoing education and commitment.”

The Minds in Mines initiative goes further than just a one-off presentation or placing brochures around the site.

Hallman said the keys to the early success of the program at Byrnecut were the complementary integrated program elements, repeat site visits, the straightforward no-nonsense language and approach during presentations, and the accompanying printed material.

Hallman said Bowers’ and former lead singer for Redgum, John Schumann’s, repeat visits installed trust among employees.

“John Schumann’s toolbox talks and onsite awareness-raising performances are embraced by our people,” he said.

“His capacity to engage and educate a roomful of miners with humour, passion and showmanship is critical to getting the message across,” he said.

According to Bowers, an encouraging number of employees reported enjoying a healthier diet, drinking and smoking less, and exercising more as a result of the strategy.