Depression and Suicide in Mining and Construction: Taking a Fresh look at Staff Wellbeing

Why are so many people suffering within the mining and construction industries today? While health and safety remains a huge priority within both fields of work, very little seems to be on offer for those men and women in genuine need of help. 

A person may receive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), or some form of counseling or psychotherapy, but often these approaches fail to deliver any lasting help for those in need. They may attempt the help an individual solve specific problems, but lack the capacity to show people how to live a full and satisfying life while continuing to work in such challenging conditions. For some the problem may be that these male dominated workplaces create an ethos of ‘just muscling through’ problems rather than admitting they don’t feel good. Yet federal government funded OzHelp, who do a lot of good work with suicide prevention, estimate suicide rates for both industries are 70% higher than the rest of the work force and indicate that this is due to drug and alcohol problems, bullying, abuse, and what they call: ‘a low emotional capacity to work through problems’. This suggests a far greater and growing problem that needs a positive and urgent solution. 

Cost is sometimes suggested as a major reason for companies holding back on seeking a resolve to this escalating problem, but the benefits of stimulating a solution far outweigh the financial expenditure. It is a well-known fact that people who feel upbeat, happy and contented with their lives, are more productive, creative and are far less likely to be off sick or make mistakes while at work. The reason for this is simple: happy people have less on their minds, they are more focused on the task at hand; feel an inner peace, communicate easily with colleagues and management, and are not generally bombarded by extraneous thoughts plaguing them for attention. The individual element in this situation is the indisputable desire in all human beings to have a good life, despite the circumstance they find themselves in.

So what can be done? How can these booming industries deal with their ever-evolving problem of what comes from a potentially unhappy workforce? Sustainable and self supporting programmes can be set up to teach workforce staff the fundamental basics in understanding how all humans create reality in the same way. These trainings would be based on an understanding of the state of mind of the work force.

This understanding will allow individuals to appreciate that the experiences they have in any given moment are a reflection of their unique thinking. That subjective thought creates our experience of the world as we see it in the moment. This understanding leads to a lot of psychological freedom, because when we start to see how our thinking affects our feeling and moods, we begin to appreciate that what is happening outside of us is not personal or something to necessarily get upset about.

Besides our loved ones and families, work is the place we spend a good measure of our time with other people, and therefore effective and constructive communication is of paramount significance if things are to run without conflict. Understanding where our thinking comes from allows us to be more rational and accepting of others when they are not feeling their best. It gives us the freedom to feel more neutral about other people’s moods, understanding that we feel unsettled and compromised sometimes too. This helps us see that other people’s negative behaviour and moods tell us far more about their state of mind in that moment, than it does about us as people. 

Having a workforce that is feeling better about itself, communicating as effectively as it can, allowing itself to be more positively neutral in potentially difficult situations, and feeling more productively at peace with each other, can only lead to greater success in the industry as a whole. What company CEO would not want to put that amazing idea in to action immediately? 

Looking for wellbeing solutions for you company? Curious to know more about this understanding, and how it can be implemented in you industry?

Programmes based on this understanding have been successfully carried out in the most male dominated macho places on earth: Prisons. What is fascinating to note is that the first thing that disappeared, even in these volatile places of incarceration was the macho posturing that men portray when they are forced in to a confined space together. If it can work in that environment – mining and construction should not be a problem. 

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