A long-term mental health and wellbeing strategy introduced at two WA underground mine sites is showing early signs of success, according to Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (ACRRMH) chief executive Dr Jennifer Bowers.
She said early feedback was “very exciting” for the ‘Minds in Mines’ program by Byrnecut Australia, following six months of activity and evaluation data from the first 200 participants.
“Perhaps most importantly, 99 per cent of employees agree that mental health is a significant issue in their sector and that it needs to be addressed.
A further 98 per cent responded that having information on mental health and emotional wellbeing is helping them understand and deal with their own issues,” Dr Bowers said.
Acknowledging that mental health is a significant factor in safety, productivity and employee wellbeing, Byrnecut plans to extend the Minds in Mines program to all of its Australian sites.
Byrnecut Australia group safety manager Peter Hallman said the company was delighted with the positive effect the program was having on its employees.
“We absolutely understand and accept that someone with a mental health problem is at a higher risk of having an incident,” Mr Hallman said.
“For us, Minds in Mines is about driving a culture shift [by] breaking down the ‘harden up’ culture, and we’ll only achieve this with ongoing education and commitment.”
Mr Hallman said a straightforward presentation approach, complementary integrated program elements, and accompanying printed material were among the key factors of the program’s early success.
Former Redgum band member John Schumann has accompanied Dr Bowers on repeat site visits.
“John Schumann’s toolbox talks and onsite awareness-raising performances are embraced by our people. His capacity to engage and educate a room full of miners with humour, passion and showmanship is critical to getting the message across,” Mr Hallman said.
Dr Bowers reported that an encouraging number of employees had already adopted a healthier diet, and made an effort to drink and smoke less, while exercising more.