The challenge of mental health in the mining industry

Oct 13, 2014

The mining industry is incredibly large, employing almost 150,000 people across Australia. While the financial incentives can be rewarding, conditions on the ground are particularly difficult, creating an environment where mental health conditions can emerge.

The mining industry offers one of the more challenging working environments in Australia. Such is the nature of the working conditions that the mining industry experiences one of the highest rates of mental health conditions among employees in the country.

“More than one in five Australian mining industry workers has experienced mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety in the past 12 months,” said beyondblue Chairman Jeff Kennett. “But sadly, too many workplaces still do not realise the importance of their employees’ mental health.”

The mining industry is incredibly large, employing almost 150,000 people across Australia. While the financial incentives can be rewarding, conditions on the ground are particularly difficult, including harsh climates, long hours, isolation, living away from family for extended periods (fly-in, fly-out), and lack of access to mental health support services. 

These conditions create an environment where mental health conditions can emerge. Over the past 12 months, the prevalence of mental health conditions in the mining industry include:

  • 22.7% of workers having a mental health condition.
  • 12.1% of workers having a substance abuse condition.
  • 16.7% or workers having an anxiety condition.
  • 3.0% of workers having an affective condition, such as depression.

Not only does the impact on the wellbeing of employees, but it also has a significant impact on the success of a business.

A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on mental health in the workplace estimated that the costs incurred when employers do not take action to manage mental health conditions in their business costs Australian business approximately $10.9 billion per year. But the report also showed that, on average, businesses will experience a return of $2.30 for every $1 invested in initiatives that foster better mental health in the workplace. In the mining industry, the return is even higher – and average of $5.70 for every $1 invested.

To encourage Australian businesses to invest in and focus on promoting good mental health practices and policies in their workplaces, beyondblue recently launched Heads Up, a joint initiative with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (MHWA). Business leaders can sign up for a Heads Up Action Plan, which can be tailored for an organisation’s size, industry, needs and goals in the area of mental health.

Mr. Kennett, from beyondblue, said the report provides a compelling case for businesses to back Heads Up, a campaign to give big and small mining businesses alike practical advice about the importance of mental health in the workplace.

Create better workplace mental health: register with Heads Up

Strategies for creating a mentally healthy workplace can be developed by going to headsup.org.au where you can also prepare a tailored Heads Up Action Plan for your business.


Heads Up on LinkedIn

If you would like more information and resources about how to create a more mentally healthy workplace, please visit our LinkedIn company page, which is regularly updated with stories and links related to the issue.

If you would like to join the discussion about a mentally healthy workplace, please visit our LinkedIn group page and become part of the conversation.

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