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Mental health focus at safety conference

Brain disease therapy and mental health treatment concept as a sheet of torn crumpled white paper taped together shaped as a side profile of a human face on wood as a symbol for neurology surgery and medicine or psychological help.

The Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference, held in Townsville this week, saw more than 500 delegates gather, with one word on their lips: safety.

Featuring three days of safety innovations, influential presentations from some of the industry’s greats and informative, ground-breaking research, this years’ conference had a significant focus on mental health.

Shocking statistics of mental illness being brought to light, with 45 per cent of workers experiencing a mental health condition in their lifetime, and 20 per cent experiencing a mental health condition in the past year.

Jorgen Gullestrup attended the conference representing his peer-support program, Mates in Construction.

“The focus of what we do is to talk to workers across the industry, not so much asking people to seek help, because we are not sure that is actually working,” Mr Gullestrup said.

“It’s much more about offering help if someone next to you is struggling, and what it looks like when someone is struggling.

“If we are not an Employer Assistance Program, we are actually about trying to support the existing EAP to see if we can get people to be connected to it.

“In the past when we put the phone number up on the wall, it hasn’t always worked when we talk about male-dominated industries – it’s actually about taking people to that phone number.”

Jorgen said it is obvious mental health is an issue that the industry has some concerns about.

“From that flows so many other things, because one of things we know is if people are well mentally, one of the symptoms is lack of concentration, risk-taking, snd in a dangerous environment that is not what we want people to do,” he said.

“We hope to get a Mates in Mining program up over time, we hope the industry will take ownership of it.

“As an industry we might be able to make a difference in terms of suicide and mental health. “

Joanne Ufer and Rachel Blee, of A Miner’s Legacy, said it was also refreshing to see the mining industry progressing in terms of support for families of lost miners, and sharing information to make the workplace safer and avoid tragic incidents.
“There have been gaps identified in support and the communications between all the stakeholders and families – so I think that is one of the good things that has come out of A Miners Legacy,” Ms Ufer said.

“When they focus on that, it means they are finally listening.

“I think the theme of this years conference is about sharing information and I think that is a number one priority.

“Safety is a number one priority, but I think if everyone gets together and those people that work in the industry along with us who have had experience on the worst side of the industry – everyone gets together and goes ‘this is what we need for this reason’, for health and wellbeing, for mental health, support for families on the human side.

“It’s not all about production. I think that is important.”

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