Quarry mental health program goes nationwide

The New South Wales-based Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH) is in the process of delivering mental health awareness workshops across Australia through the Institute of Quarrying Australia’s (IQA) Professional Development Program (PDP).

In addition to general information on mental health and the associated risks, the program includes training on how to recognise mental illness in quarry co-workers and employees and how to talk about the issue in the workplace.

The program is currently being rolled out across Australia – with locations including Darwin, Launceston, Melbourne, Bendigo, Canberra, Toowoomba and Townsville – but the impetus for the nationwide program began last year at an IQA sub-branch meeting.

As previously reported by Quarry, the IQA NSW Central West sub-branch invited a mental health professional to conduct a presentation at its meeting in September 2015 to help quarry managers improve their understanding of mental health in the workplace.

The presentation was well received and led to an “overwhelming response” from other quarry managers who were interested in increasing their awareness of mental health. As a result, the IQA was able to secure the sponsors and funding needed to allow CRRMH to deliver the training via its PDPs in other states.

Positive change

CRRMH training facilitator Jenn Caine said that feedback on the program had been very positive so far.

“Participants are sharing some really valuable stories about situations and mental health concerns that they have dealt with in the workplace,” she said. “They are appreciative of now having some strategies up their sleeve for when situations arise in the future.”

NSW Central West sub-branch chairman Mitchell Bland echoed Caine’s remarks when discussing the program’s reception in his own region.

“The feedback that I am getting from the local operators is that the training has put this issue on the radar for their workers,” Bland said. “They are now much more open to both talking about issues that may be affecting them and to listening when others open up.”

IQA general manager Paul Sutton said the fact that quarry workers tend to avoid talking about personal issues, as well as the nature of the industry – which often demands long working hours away from family – were some of the reasons why the program was so important.

“We hope that by providing this mental health awareness training, employees can feel more confident about recognising whether they themselves or someone else is having a difficult time and what they can do to help,” Sutton said. “It is important that we encourage people to open up and discuss their feelings and help each other when needed.”

Bland added, “As an industry, we are rightly very focused on physical health and safety at work and at home. Mental health can be no less debilitating and just because it is harder to see or attribute a ‘cause’ does not mean that we should not recognise and address the issue.”

Bland recently spoke about the IQA mental health awareness program with ABC NSW radio. The interview can be accessed below.


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