Research looks at mental health in resources industry

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The Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA) has conducted an Australian-first mental health national research project covering the mining, oil and gas, and allied service sectors of the resources industry.

The Resources and Energy Workforce and Leaders Mental Health Research collected data from more than 1100 employees offering unprecedented insights into stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol use and sleep issues.

The research was undertaken by specialist psychology firm Mindshape and found that resources and energy employees are coping comparatively well with the added stress and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has added to their working lives.

“We congratulate the employees who took time out to complete the research survey and their employers for participating in this landmark research – the first of its kind in the industry,” AMMA director operations Tara Diamond said.

“While many of the key findings are very positive, the data points to some clear areas in which employers might look to focus to improve mental health outcomes amongst their workforces.”

Nearly 20 per cent of the participants reported weekly or more frequent binge drinking, with the problem more acute in males, and almost 20 per cent reported ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ sleep issues.

“Providing mental health education to staff – especially to leaders and managers – is important to help recognise, understand, empathise with, and manage the signs and symptoms of depression and stress,” Diamond said.

“Employers could also tailor education materials on signs such as alcohol use, anger, irritability, and risk-taking behaviour which are often indicators of depression – especially in males – than withdrawal and introspection.

“Encouragement of open conversations about mental health must be doubled down upon. Stigma remains one of the biggest barriers to individuals seeking help with their mental health.”

The mental health research project revealed 93 per cent of participants said they had been offered an employee assistance program (EAP) in the resources and energy industry, and 64 per cent had been offered access to industry counselling.

Of those, 23 per cent of participants had taken up a professional intervention.

“The strong uptake in EAP and other professional interventions indicates these employer service offerings are hitting the mark,” Diamond said.

“Despite this strong performance, 27 per cent of participants indicated they viewed EAPs as ‘not helpful’, with some perceived issues around confidentiality, trust, privacy and quality of service.

“For this reason, resources employers are currently putting a lot of work into investigating the effectiveness of EAP programs and the support and interventions they offer.

“It is incredibly important that the services and interventions offered to employees are continually assessed and improved upon.”

The Resources and Energy Workforce Mental Health Research was guided by AMMA’s mental health advisory board, with phase two scheduled to take place in 2022.

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