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Mental health issues strike a chord with quarry managers

The Institute of Quarrying Australia’s (IQA) New South Wales Central West sub-branch invited Di Gill, a consultant with the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP), to conduct a mental health presentation during its recent annual general meeting and technical meeting.

The presentation, which was designed for quarry managers and supervisors, took place on 11 September in Orange and was attended by 40 people.

“Mental illness is everyone’s business,” Gill told Quarry. “One in five people have a mental health issue during their lifetime that requires intervention.”

Gill said mental health issues did not just affect the individual – they could also have a ripple effect on the individual’s surrounding community, including quarry workplaces.

“When an individual is trying to cope with a mental health problem they can be off target two and a half hours a shift, which might put themselves and their co-workers at risk,” she explained.

According to Gill, one of the most common mistakes made in the workplace when dealing with mental health was not acknowledging or talking about the issue. Worse yet, co-workers often adopted what Gill referred to as the “Toughen up, princess” attitude, which could compound the problem.

When asked how quarry managers could promote mental wellbeing within the workplace, Gill recommended they focus on decreasing the stigma associated with mental illness. She also suggested encouraging staff to communicate openly and honestly about mental health issues, educating them on the services and resources available, and promoting a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet, exercise and moderate alcohol consumption.

For quarry personnel concerned about their co-workers, Gill advised: “Ask them if they are alright. Encourage them to seek appropriate help, such as through an Employee Assistance Program or general practitioner, and bring your concern to the attention of the quarry manager.”

Positive reception

{{image2-a:r-w:260}}Gill said the quarry managers that attended the IQA sub-branch meeting had had a “wonderful” attitude, voicing real concern for their staff and openly sharing their personal experiences with mental health issues with the rest of the group.

She noted that while there had been a sound understanding of mental illness across the board, many attendees had acknowledged that there were issues raised in the presentation that they had not been aware of and that they were keen to share with their workplaces.

“I don’t recall a meeting where I have received so many phone calls from attendees thanking us for hosting the event and wanting to follow up on the discussions on the day,” IQA Central West sub-branch chairman and secretary Mitchell Bland commented.

“This issue is one that seems to have really struck a chord with our members. I, personally, found it to be very informative and at times challenging.”

Program rollout

Following the presentation, the Central West sub-branch along with a number of other NSW sub-branch representatives discussed the rollout of a statewide mental health education program.

Bland said all sub-branches had committed to conducting a two-tiered program for their members comprising the same three-hour presentation that was delivered at the Central West sub-branch meeting for quarry managers as well as a shorter, 90-minute presentation designed for on-the-ground quarry workers. Both presentations would be delivered by the RAMHP.

Bland stated that he hoped to implement the program for Central West sub-branch members within the next few months, and that the sub-branch committee was currently inviting expressions of interest from quarry operators seeking to participate.

“I would strongly encourage all NSW members to get along to one of the presentations in their area,” he said. “For those outside of NSW, I am sure that there are local service providers who would be happy to speak on this issue.”

RAMHP is a statewide program that is funded by the New South Wales Ministry of Health and managed by the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health.

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