Who to talk to (when he won't)

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You might remember we recently told you about Employee Assistance Programs and the free professional support they provide to Australian families in mining and resources. To reinforce the message, here's Lindsay McMillan, CEO of EAP provider Converge International...

There are always times when husbands or partners play the strong, silent types - men retreating into their cave, stoically weathering the storms of their troubles alone. 

I'm guilty of it myself ... it's the way men are made as we're taught not to ask for help; to get over it; to take responsibility and be a man.

But when is the time to intervene? Have the blues and the silent treatment gone on for far too long? Or the other extreme: is he frustrated, angry, uncommunicative and taking it out on you and the family?

Many wives, partners and family members of FIFO workers don't realise that they too can access his employer's Employee Assistance Provider and workplace counsellors. Employee assistance isn't just about workplace issues – it's also about ensuring the emotional and psychological health and wellbeing of employees in the workplace and in the home. That's where employee assistance organisations such as Converge International take centre stage – impartial, and focused solely on employee wellbeing. And that means your health and wellbeing too.

After all, jobs in the mining sector are incredibly demanding compared to other professions. Employers have a duty of care to ensure their staff have the mental stamina, and emotional resilience to cope with the demands placed on them.  If it sounds 'touchy feely', think of someone you know who's suffered depression, or a relationship breakdown, or isolation and anxiety. These situations are real.

Workplace counsellors regularly meet with spouses and partners from the mining industry to help with personal issues that may ultimately impact their work performance. They've even helped to save more than a few relationships and marriages along the way. A spouse or partner who is withdrawn, or angry, or even possibly suffering depression is ultimately endangering not only his own life but that of his team. 

Where once these issues would have been considered personal problems best left at home, modern employers demand so much of their employees' time and resources that they must by law also care for their health and wellbeing.
But much of that health and wellbeing starts at home. Who am I to tell you of the stresses placed on any relationship by the FIFO lifestyle? Our counsellors find that many spouses left behind to keep the home fires burning feel distant and alienated from their partner's 'other' world.  It's easy to see why relationships are tested, challenged and sometimes fail with the frustration of single parenting or loneliness. Or children can't quite cope with the frequent absences and changes to routine and discipline, even ensuring that dad has enough love and affection for all family members after three weeks on.

If you need someone to talk to, or if you think your spouse needs someone to talk to, give your EAP provider a call. Every major mining company provides workplace counsellors and Employee Assistance Programs through organisations such as Converge International. If your partner is unsure, there are usually posters and flyers throughout the workplace promoting EAP contact details. (Tell him to try the loo or the tea room for starters!)

It's also worth remembering that one in five Australians will suffer depression during their lifetime, according to beyondblue: national depression initiative. What starts out as 'the sads' or 'the blues' or anxiety can become more serious. Do not hesitate to contact your Employee Assistance Provider if you're feeling unusually depressed or anxious, or if you suspect your man is not coping. Assistance is swift and mental health plans are immediate.

The mining sector is a tough gig driven by voracious demand, creating great wealth for our country. Yet this immeasurable wealth cannot be at the cost of the happiness of Australian families. The health and wellbeing of employees and their families remain paramount to employers. One bad incident on site has massive ramifications not only for a tight-knit workforce but throughout the industry. An EAP provider is not the HR department. It's an external and impartial organisation which specialises in the emotional and psychological wellbeing of people who are not merely employees – but who are mums and dads, sons and daughters, and valued members of our community.

Don't try and cope alone.

Converge International is a not for profit organisation working with Australia's employees and their families to ensure their emotional and psychological health and wellbeing through workplace counselling,training and employee assistance programs.  www.convergeinternational.com.au

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