Working as a miner seems to create a storm of media attention when it comes to mental health. In countries like Australia and Canada where mining workers often have rosters with protracted weeks on site in fly-in/fly-out arrangements, the work arrangements are often cited as to the main reason for higher rates of mental illness (e.g. depression, anxiety and/or substance use). Because of the focus on the industry in terms of mental health improvement, it is with interest that we review a paper published in November 2018 that evaluated a peer-based mental health training programme to determine its feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness. The study was conducted across eight Australian coal mines, whereby four mines received the mental health programme and four did not.
As a result of the peer-based mental health training programme, mining employees were more confident that they could identify a workmate experiencing a decline in their mental health; had increased knowledge of where to look for help for a workmate, family member or themselves; and were more willing to start a conversation with a workmate about their mental health. Supervisors undertook training specifically for managers and supervisors and were more confident that they could:
- Identify a workmate experiencing mental health issues in the workplace;
- Identify and recommend support services to a workmate experiencing mental health issues; and
- Have an effective conversation about performance issues that may be due to the impact of a decline in mental health.
Mining – It’s a man’s world
Mining is predominantly the domain of male workers. Male-dominated industries in general are often characterised as possessing a ‘macho’ culture that impedes the overall acceptance of mental health related programmes. Mental illness stigma is higher in men and compounds the attitudinal barrier resulting in a reluctance to seek help. Men tend to have a lower mental health literacy and are less likely to discuss mental illness symptoms with their doctor or other sources of support. As a result, mental illness within male-dominated industries may be more likely to go unrecognised and untreated. In the mining population there is a significantly higher alcohol use and higher levels of psychological distress. Suicide rates are highest in some male-dominated occupations, especially in “blue-collar” occupations.
See our post on FIFO workers levels of psychological distress.
A multi-faceted approach is best
Research shows that workplace mental health programmes are most effective when they adopt a multi-component approach. Effective workplace mental health programmes include:
- Training about mental health and mental illness for all employees,
- Increasing the capacity of supervisors and managers to identify and respond to mental illness in their employees,
- Having workplace policy that supports employees who have mental health issues, and
- Return to work programmes that support employees transitioning back to work after a period of absence.
See our post on family friendly rosters.
Positive impact of the training
Employees who received the peer-based mental health training programme showed significant improvements in their confidence in identifying workmates with a mental health issue, increased knowledge of where they could get support, an open willingness to start of conversation with a workmate, and increased positive perceptions of the workplace as supporting the mental health of the site’s employees. In relation to the perception of workplace mental health stigma, fewer people felt that a workmate would be treated poorly if they disclosed mental health issues. Following the training, supervisors had a significantly improved understanding of mental health, were significantly more confident that they could identify mental health difficulties in the workplace and recommend appropriate professional support and have a conversation about mental health with their workmates.
Peer-based mental health training using technology
Peer-based mental health training is a great way to increase mental health literacy and provide appropriate responses when a workmate is having issues with their mental health. But the effects of one-off training programmes wane over time. How can we continue to maintain mental health literacy for all employees to reinforce the need to act when they recognise the signs of declining mental health in themselves and their workmates?
Part of an integrated approach to workplace mental health training is including online and mobile solutions such as the Tap Into Safety platform. This training is aimed at the employee and helps them to increase their mental health literacy by providing animated stories on workplace stressors that impact mental health. Within the software employees are encouraged to seek help and the best actions to take to seek appropriate help are reinforced. Organisations can access de-identified data to identify staff groups with mental health issues early on so that trends can be acted upon.
For businesses investing in workplace mental health, the software helps by intervening early to support worker mental health better by providing relevant and interactive workplace wellbeing training. The solution offers ‘one click away’ from help to reach out for support.
Clients have experienced a 100% increase in help-seeking activities when using the Tap Into Safety platform, as part of their wellbeing programme. By attacking stigma head on and encouraging help-seeking early, we reduce the escalation of serious stress claims. This supports employees to reach out to seek care when they are not feeling as good as they should.
See podcast with ABC News on FIFO workers and the research study results.
With our flexible per use ‘credits’ model pricing, you simply pay for what you use. You have immediate access to all 10 mental health modules. You can purchase any number of credits at any time, that you can use within a 12-month period, before they expire. There are no set up fees or lock in contracts.
Most importantly, once a business is registered on the Tap Into Safety Platform, employees can continue to access the help seeking features and support resources, at no charge to the business. Organisations only pay for the training and assessment modules that they use in their mental health and wellbeing campaigns and on-boarding activities.
Finally, the psychometric measurement tool (animated, gamified DASS-21) is a world first in its use across organisations, that together with our filters, enables them to pinpoint groups of staff in mental health decline so that they can target and tailor their wellbeing education programmes to support improvement. Once registered, clients continue to have access to predictive results that indicate trends in employee mental health. Early indicators can help to inform organisations where best to spread resources and target training and support. Why not view the video or try a free demo?