FIFO worker Rhys Connor intentionally avoided reporting his depression and did not seek on-site treatment in the weeks leading to his suicide for fear he would never work in the mining industry again, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
The family of suicide victim Connor gave evidence to the WA inquiry into the impact of FIFO on mental health yesterday, confirming revelations by the AMWU and CFMEU that workers avoided treatment for mental illness for fear of jeopardising their employment.
Stepfather Peter Miller said Connor had begged him not to contact the on-site services to report that there was a problem with his mental health, ABC reported.
“When we first became aware Rhys was going to need help I spoke with him (on site) and he begged me not to do anything at all,” he said.
Mr Miller said the onset of Connor’s depression was fast, beginning approximately 6 weeks before his death, and that he had tried to seek medical assistance at the Mead Centre in Armadale while on break, but was unable to see a psychologist.
Miller told the inquiry that the facility told Connor to access on-site services if he felt depressed, but Connor told his stepfather that if his employer OTOC Limited found out he had sought treatment in Perth, he would lose his job.
Mother Anita Miller said it was important for companies to acknowledge there was a problem with the industry, and make changes to accommodate the mental health risks.
“If you have mental health issues and it is documented, many say you stand no chance to stay on site… Management needs to step up with this one and assure employees and contractors that this will not be the case if people do present,” she said.
Mrs Miller told Australian Mining her son was working on a 4/1 roster at the time of his death.
“We believe 4/1 rosters are way too long for some and if I had my way they would not exist,” she said.
“We also want the mining companies to not just skim the surface and do what they have to regarding programs, and we would like to see them have a vested interested in mental well-being on their sites.
“The mining companies have FIFO camp set-ups as it is more feasible for them than setting up towns, therefore it is their duty to provide above and beyond what [mental health services] they offer now.
“It's not about blame, it's about change.”
Mrs Miller also said there was a responsibility of all workers on sites to look after their co-workers and to change the underlying culture.
“We want the stigma and bullying to stop and it must start from the top, until then nothing will change,” she said.
“I believe there is a group of men that wear T-shirts that boast something like ‘Fit In or F@$k Off’ around some camps. How is that even allowed and how are they approachable men?”
The Millers were instrumental in raising awareness about the issue of FIFO related suicide through campaigning and telling their story to the media.
“We speak up for Rhys and the eight others that have been lost in the hope that lives can be saved," Mrs Miller said.