At GRT we are very focused on products and technologies that solve health and safety problems – respiratory health, dust exposure, road condition etc. However, this week we are taking a different track and have decided to do what we should all do more of in our industry – that is talk about our mental health.

After close examination of Australia’s and US suicide rates in the last decade, results have shown that the highest suicide rates are amongst men is in the construction and mining industries. The National Coronial Information Systems have revealed that the number of suicides in these industries equates to 239 suicides from 2011 to 2014. What is more worrying is that for every suicide death, it is estimated that approximately 30 people attempt to end their lives. It is now believed that one in four Australians suffer from some form of mental illness. As a manager, supervisor, employer or even employee in the construction or mining industry it is our duty of care to ensure our workers and fellow colleagues have a healthy work environment.

A study performed by the Medical Journal of Australia released a paper in 2018 that discussed the psychological distress in remote-mining and construction workers in Australia.  The paper explains that the core reason for this increase in suicides is due to a mixture of work stress (eg shift rosters) and personal issues (such as relationship problems, missing special events, social isolation, financial situation and drug abuse). These factors combined with the Australian male “men don’t cry” stigma is believed to be the primary motives.

Since 2011, these numbers have been increasing consistently, and as a result, the government has introduced suicide prevention initiatives in the workplace. The initiatives are aimed at educating managers, supervisors and work staff to notice workplace behaviour indicating depression or mental health issues. This is in combination with breaking the stigma of, men especially, talking about personal issues, and getting the appropriate help needed.

Provided below is a summary of behaviours that may be indicative of someone who may be suffering from mental health. This guide is also followed by steps to take if you believe a coworker is suffering in silence.

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

Symptoms that may be indicating signs of depression or mental health issues:

  • Persistently showing sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Reduced appetite or rapid weight loss/gain
  • Seems constantly agitated or irritated
  • Finds difficulty in concentrating/ remembering or making simple decisions
  • Poor judgement
  • Expressing loss of energy or can’t be bothered attitude
  • Productivity loss
  • An increase in accidents or taking safety risks
  • Increased absence from work, or calls in sick more often
  • Consistently tired
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • Consistent and long periods of complaining of aches and pains

If you are feeling this way, or you see a coworker expressing more than one of these emotions or behaviors consistently the following steps should be taken.

As a manager:

  • Provide a supportive and positive workplace by providing decent working conditions. For example, adequate levels of light, fresh air into the work space, minimizing loud noise and ensuring it is a comfortable temperature. It may not seem like effective measures, but our psychology responds strongly to our environment, so little changes such as these are a critical step in helping coworkers in need.
  • You may also assist by offering jobs that give an opportunity for variation and a chance to use and develop different skills. For example, input in design and creation. This assists in breaking habit and repetitive work to assist in activating other areas of the brain that may help them gain different perspectives.
  • By providing constructive criticism and supporting coworkers the employee may feel less pressure in the workplace.
  • Ensure performance expectations are clear and support them to meet these requirements.
  • It is not your job to diagnose depression. What may be helpful for both parties is sitting down and talking freely and openly about any issues, ensuring that the employee knows that assistance programs are available through HR (without being too forcing). The earlier the intervention on the manager’s part, the more likely effective treatment will be successful.

As a colleague:

  • As a friend or coworker, it is not your job to diagnose or treat their depression. You can offer your support, invite them to social events and suggest programs without being forcing. If they refuse do not pressure them as this may exacerbate the situation.
  • If your manager is not aware of the situation, it would be wise to ensure that manager is up to date with how long you have noticed any changes in behaviour, and what options you have given.

Suicides can be avoided by little steps, such as reducing pressures, providing a comfortable environment and talking. Displaying an awareness of suicide and breaking the stigma is a key solution. Provide pamphlets, or information, from sources such as Beyond blue, lifeline or go gentle, to your staff to ensure they understand that programs are always available and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Suicide rates in the mining and construction industry is a growing problem, but little actions, helpful support and offering options can potentially save someone’s life. So, next time you’re in the workplace look around. If you are unsure of how your employees and/or coworkers are going, start a conversation today.

If you are thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis help is available.
No one needs to face their problems alone. Call 13 11 14

For more information please contact GRT:
Works Cited