Mental health services failing rural workers

New research has proven what many have known for decades; the rates of depression and stress amongst rural and regional workers, including miners, are disproportionately high.

One in three rural and regional workers take at least one day off work every few months because they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, according to the research commissioned by Medicare Health Solutions.

The report shows workers are facing unrealistic expectations in regards to work/life balance, which in turn forces workers to elect to take time off.

Of those surveyed, almost one in five take a day off every month.

The problem becomes greater when the amount of services available to workers is uncovered, with less than a third of employers having a program to support those dealing with mental health issues.

Almost 80 per cent of those surveyed believe there is not enough support for those with mental health issues in regional and rural communities.

The most prevalent problems are identified as depression, substance abuse and work related stress.

Matthew Cullen, Group General Manager of Medibank Health Solutions said the results prove there is not enough being done.

He believes the mental health issues are twofold; with staff are experiencing mental health issues being overlooked by employees added to a lack of awareness about existing services.

“While a lot of time and money is invested into providing a safe physical work environment, the effect that workplace pressures have on an employee’s mental health is being overlooked at a huge cost to employers,” Cullen said.

Over 60 per cent of respondents said they would be encouraged to deal with their mental health problems if their employer provided a workplace assistance program, and almost 80 per cent believe it is the responsibility of the employer to offer the services.

But over half of respondents believe counselling and other mental health support would not solve their problems and would be unlikely to seek support.

One of the biggest issues identified in workers seeking assistance was concerns about confidentiality, with the large majority preferring access to a free external counselling service.

“The fear of colleagues finding out is big concern for employees as there is still a negative stigma associated with mental health issues and people think that admitting to suffering from depression or anxiety may harm their chances of career progression,” Cullen said.

“As a result, we now see many companies outsourcing their workplace support programs to assure staff that their confidentiality will be protected and that they have access to a quality service.”

Image: BBC UK



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