Misunderstanding mental illness in mining

Founders of a mining worker support group have told a WA parliamentary inquiry there was a severe lack of compassion and misunderstanding towards mental illness in the industry.

The Inquiry into mental health impacts of FIFO work arrangements restarted in Perth yesterday, hearing a submission from Sue Crook and Julie Loveny, who started the support website This FIFO Life.

Loveny recounted a conversation in which a supervisor had told her that suicide was “attention seeking behaviour”, the West Australian reported.

“It’s not that they have no understanding, it’s that the understanding they have is dangerous,” she said.

Loveny told the inquiry that the common stigma meant workers experiencing mental illness would not speak up about their conditions for fear of being made redundant.

She also said that given the widespread industry cutbacks, anxiety and stress were more prevalent among workers in the industry.

Last year an interim report from the inquiry revealed a startling lack of information recorded by organisations about the mental health aspects of incidents, and that suicides were underreported in terms connection to the FIFO or local status of victims.

Inquiry chairman Dr Graham Jacobs MLA said companies had a responsibility to provide a better level of counselling support than a phone-based Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

“We believe telephone and online support is not actually fine, so we are looking at sites that can supply a template for providing a counsellor or some sort of psycho-social support on site, whether that be a chaplain/counsellor or some other kind,” he said.

Readers seeking support or information about suicide prevention should contact Lifeline on 131114 or MensLine Australia 1300789978.

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