Media Release: mining families urged to tackle big four stresses during Men's Health Week

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June 2010

Australia's mining families are being urged to use Men's Health Week 2010 as a circuit breaker for identifying and tackling the major stresses in the lives of many mining men.

Mining Family Matters founder Alicia Ranford says anecdotal evidence gathered during 12 years as a mining wife, combined with information emerging on the new mining family website MiningFM, suggest major pressures for mining men in fly-in, fly-out relationships include:

  1. Fear of partner’s infidelity
  2. Lack of understanding by partner
  3. Readjusting to ‘normal’ life and intensity of family at home
  4. Poor sleeping patterns due to transition from mining site rosters to home life

"Even the toughest, most self-contained men sometimes live in fear of their wives cheating on them while they're away at the mine site. This isn't true of all men, of course, but I've known blokes who have broken down in tears with their co-workers over relationship break-ups," Ms Ranford says.

"Another major cause of stress is a lack of understanding about life on-site. Some women think their husbands are having 'a break' at the mine because they’re free from the day-to-day parenting. This leads to friction because the wife needs a rest, but really her husband deserves down-time too.

"Then you get the kids who are desperate to spend time with Dad and compete for attention. Emotions and pressures get ramped up to a point where some men don't feel like they can cope with everything getting thrown at them."

Mining Family Matters' resident psychologist Angie Willcocks says all couples go through good and bad times, but fly-in, fly-out relationships have the potential to heighten fears and stresses because partners are so regularly apart.

"Couples need to talk about their feelings and fears in a constructive manner and even go so far as setting rules for engagement, both for when Dad's away and when he's at home. Little things like letting him sleep-in on his first morning off can make all the difference to easing him back into home life," Ms Willcocks says.

"It’s essential that couples are aware of early signs of stress, anxiety and depression and look out for one another – miners who feel under increasing pressure should either talk to a GP or seek support through company employee assistance programs."

Therese Fitzpatrick, National Workplace Program Manager of beyondblue: the national depression initiative, says one in eight Australian men and one in five women will experience depression at some stage in their lives.

"While depression and anxiety disorders are different from stress, prolonged excessive stress is a risk factor for depression, so it is important to be aware that there are particular risk factors for those working in the mining industry, such as shift work and social isolation," she says.

"Men are less likely to seek help, so it's important that they (and those around them) know where to seek help, and that there's no shame in doing that."

For more information on depression/anxiety and related disorders, go to www.beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636.

For more information on dealing with anxiety, stress and depression, plus expert relationship advice for mining families, click here.