Mining and quarry workers are being offered free access to professional online counselling in a bid to curb workplace mental health pressures.
In coming months, South Australia's Mining and Quarrying Occupational Health and Safety Committee (MAQOHSC) will fund free online access to psychologists, ensuring workers and their families can seek professional, anonymous advice on specific issues of concern.
The MAQOHSC-funded initiative will be provided by Mining Family Matters – our award-winning, Adelaide-based support service for resource workers and their families established seven years ago by fly-in, fly-out mining wife Alicia Ranford.
It follows research which shows that FIFO workers, their partners and family members are more likely to suffer depression, sleep problems, headaches and anxiety because of extended separation and conflict between work and home commitments.
Mining Family Matters co-founder Alicia Ranford says the research findings, determined by former UniSA PhD student Wes McTernan during a supplementary scholarship partly funded by MAQOHSC, reinforce that mental health is just as important as physical safety for men and women working in South Australia’s mines and quarries.
"There’s no doubt that most mining and resources companies have increased their focus on mental health in recent years, but it’s important to remain vigilant – especially in male-dominated industries where there’s often a stigma associated with admitting vulnerability," Ms Ranford says.
"We applaud MAQOHSC for continuing to support and drive this valuable program providing free online access to our Mining Family Matters psychologists and leading the way in practical mental health programs that ease the pressures for workers and their families."
Under the initiative, South Australian mining and quarry workers and their immediate family members are invited to email a question to Mining Family Matters, with all questions answered in less than a week by an expert relationship or organisational psychologist.
Correspondents will remain anonymous but their questions and answers will be published on the Mining Family Matters website and Facebook to help other workers and families struggling with similar issues.
"This anonymous email Q&A format has proven enormously beneficial for hundreds of mining workers and partners over the seven years since we established Mining Family Matters," Ms Ranford says.
"It allows people to ask sensitive questions from the privacy of their own home, without the stress of talking face-to-face, and often people are just relieved to learn they’re not alone in finding the mining and quarrying lifestyle tough sometimes.
"It also allows us to point people in the direction of other professional services for additional advice and support if it’s needed."