Q&A: I have depression and can't cope with FIFO

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression since my husband has been doing FIFO. He had to come home for me to get help and recover, but now he wants to go back and says he doesn't have an option. I have told him I don't think I can do FIFO anymore. I don't know what to do next.

A: Thank you for your email.

It’s very hard for me to comment on your particular situation without knowing details and history of anxiety and depression for you, and what role your husband working away has played in this. In reality the FIFO lifestyle is not for everyone and some individuals and couples find it harder to cope than others, for all sorts of different reasons.

This being said, being diagnosed with anxiety and depression doesn’t mean that FIFO is definitely 100 per cent out for your family – it just means that you and your husband will need to spend some more time exploring what role him working away plays in your feeling low and anxious.

Hopefully your treatment plan involves some counselling, and this will help you get a better understanding of all the issues at hand. This might take some time so you and your husband might need to be patient while this happens. This might mean him returning to FIFO work in the short term, and if so you might want to consider other ways you can feel supported while he is away. Remember that him working away might only be a short-term measure while you both sort out your longer term plans.

It’s really important for all FIFO workers to regularly assess if working away is working for them and their families, and to work on fixing things that aren’t working so well.

I’m interested in your husband’s view that “he doesn’t have an option” other than to go back to FIFO. Is this because he has run out of leave, because you need the money to pay bills or because he can’t get other work?

I often speak with people who genuinely feel ‘stuck’ in the FIFO lifestyle even though it isn’t really working for them anymore. Usually this sense of being stuck comes from financial commitments. Getting out of the need to work FIFO can mean reassessing things financially and this is a discussion that you should both have together.

Sometimes these financial discussions raise issues around differing priorities and life goals, and if this is the case, please consider getting some relationship counselling about this. This way, if you and your husband do decide to stick with FIFO for now, you’ll at least be on the same page with WHY you’re doing it.

If you decide it’s not for you at this time in your life, you’ll both have more information about each other’s goals and priorities.

I wish you all the best and really well done for getting some help for anxiety and depression.


To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.