Hard at work. 
Photo Kelly Butterworth / CQ News
Hard at work. Photo Kelly Butterworth / CQ News Kelly Butterworth EME301014ensha

FIFO at more than twice the risk of psychological distress

ONE of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken into the mental health of fly in fly out workers has revealed that more than a quarter experience high to very high levels of psychological distress.

Research published today found high levels of psychological distress were more than two and half times greater among FIFO workers than the Australian working population aged 25 - 34.

Those on a two week on, one week off roster were most at risk.

The study was published in the Medical Journal of Australia by Rural & Remote Mental Health in conjunction with Edith Cowan University and Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.

Key findings showed higher levels of stress were associated with missing out on special events like family birthdays, daily work tasks, shift rosters and social isolation.

More than 1120 workers in 10 remote mining and construction sites in South Australia and Western Australia were surveyed in one of the few studies that surveyed workers on-site in underground mines, open cut mines and construction sites.

Rural & Remote Mental Health CEO, Dr Jennifer Bowers said the stigma related to mental health remained a major issue for mining workers.

"Our research found that workers who felt there was stigma attached to mental health problems on site were the workers at greatest risk of high psychological distress," said Dr Bowers.

"We also found that work expectations, relationship and financial pressures were all key contributing factors.

"This FIFO mental health challenge requires prevention programs along with early interventions and an industry-wide response, but on the positive side we're starting to see the major mining contractors and companies renewing their efforts in delivering comprehensive mental health and suicide prevention programs and support for workers.

"Many of the issues are now well understood, but it's the targeted investment that needs to follow from mining and resource companies to tackle the growing and often complex mental health challenges facing workers.

"Cultural change is required within the mining sector and a commitment from management to mental health education, identification of champions and peer group support being vital to reducing the stigma associated with mental health."

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