R U OK? Day and Mates in Mining

This year, National R U OK Day will be held on Thursday 13th September. With that date fast approaching, we wanted to do our part in raising awareness for the cause. The stigma once surrounding suicide made this tragedy a hard one to combat, because to address a problem, you’ve got to first acknowledge that there is one. Since 2009, R U Ok Day has tried to start the national conversation, by asking the all-important question.

In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for men between the ages of 25 and 44, and women between 25 and 34. This is a devastating statistic. In a nation that loses an average of 2,500 people to suicide annually, 75% of them male, there is much room for improvement. In fact, in the last 10 years, suicide rates in Australia have increased, which is just not good enough

Research has revealed that suicide rates are much higher among men who are operators and labourers, with particular mention of the construction and mining industries as occupations of concern. Following the successful introduction of the Mates in Construction (MIC) initiative in 2008, the need for a sister program within the mining industry was recognised. Mates in Mining (MIM) is an initiative of the Australian Mining Industry, and remains affiliated with MIC, adhering to their principles of operation. The original program for the construction industry has been customised to suit mining and is now in operation in a number of mine sites nationally.

The founding principle of MIM (and MIC) is that “suicide is everyone’s business.” How can we tackle mental health care awareness and reduce suicide risks if we don’t understand our role in forcing change? We can’t just leave suicide prevention to mental health care professionals, we all need to be mates and play our part. For those who struggle, in any industry, it’s imperative that they know where they can turn to for help and support.

Mates in Mining operate independently of employers and are unaffiliated with unions. Their preventative measures for suicide include community development programs, support workers, case management, as well as a 24/7 help line. The MIM/MIC vision is to be the leading industry suicide prevention organisation in Australia. Their mission is to; raise awareness, build capacity through active engagement within the industry and the introduction of sustainable programs, and providing help, support and case management to connect workers to the necessary services. They also contribute to research and studies conducted within suicide prevention.

In an industry that is male dominant, and often isolating, mining workers can be extremely susceptible to depression, mental health issues and suicide. Fortunately, we live in an age where this concept is not taboo.

VLI proudly support all initiatives aiming to reduce the alarming statistics facing workers in our industry. We believe in creating a work culture where employees are comfortable and know where to seek help when it is needed. This year on R U Ok Day, make sure you talk to your mates. Ask them the question. Listen to their answers. If you need help, or you are looking to help a mate – then call the MATES in Mining 24/7 helpline on1300 642 111.