Are you OK?
These three little words are very important and they could save someone’s life.
Like millions of people world-wide we were shocked and saddened by the apparent suicide of Robin Williams. But his death is just one of many such deaths caused, at least in part, by depression. According to beyondblue, at least six Australians take their own lives every day. In the mining industry, there have been 8 suicides in the past 12 months in Western Australia alone. Most of these people were fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers, working long rosters far away from family and friends.
Identified contributors to depression and suicide in mining include:
- long working hours
- lack of sleep
- family and relationship stress
- social isolation
Using alcohol or ‘recreational’ drugs to try to lessen the impact of these contributors often makes things worse. Even where medication is prescribed, changing from night shift to day shift or working for extended hours can make it difficult to maintain a routine for taking medication at the right times each day.
We spend around 40% of our lives at work. Therefore it makes sense that the people we work with are often the first ones to notice changes in our behaviour or other signs that things are not ok. Some of these signs may include:
- turning up late to work
- feeling tired and fatigued
- loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
- being unusually tearful or emotional
- getting angry easily, or frustrated with tasks or people
- avoiding people, such as sitting alone at lunchtime
- finding it hard to accept constructive and well-delivered feedback
- losing confidence and having negative thought patterns
- drinking more alcohol to try to cope with other symptoms
- uncharacteristic risk-taking or recklessness at work or after hours
- taking excessive sick leave or unexplained absenteeism.
For a comprehensive list of common suicide warning signs go to: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/suicide-prevention/emergency-and-crisis-situations/common-warning-signs
If you notice a change in one of your workmates, let them know that you are concerned about them. Pick a quiet time, in a private place, and start a conversation by asking them if they are OK? You might feel it is not your place to interfere or that mental health is a private issue, but having a conversation with someone and checking they’re OK can often be the first step in them getting the help that they need.
Don’t worry if your first conversation doesn’t go as planned. You may need to make a few attempts to get the conversation going. The person may choose to act at a later stage or continue the conversation with others. The fact that you cared enough to ask can often have a more profound effect than you will ever know.
Our business is all about safety, and to date most of our products have been aimed at improving physical safety. However this week we committed to becoming involved in raising awareness and helping to increase mental health related safety. And we are starting with our own work place. Pertrain has joined Heads Up, a joint initiative from beyondblue and the Mentally Healthy Work Place Alliance.
The aim of Heads Up is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, improve productivity and promote good mental health in the workplace. We have developed an action plan for our organisation that includes:
- increasing awareness of mental health conditions and the avenues available for help
- identifying and minimising workplace risks to mental health
- encouraging our employees to look after their own mental health and to look out for their work mates.
Please join us in improving mental health. It starts with asking friends, family and work mates “Are you OK?” and letting the conversation go from there.
If your organisation would like to make mental health a priority join Heads Up at: http://www.headsup.org.au/home
Beyondblue, The facts. http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts
Deceglie, A. Family of fly-in fly-out suicide victim Stephen Migas join calls for inquiry into recent FIFO deaths, Perthnow, 03/08/2014. http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/family-of-flyin-flyout-suicide-victim-stephen-migas-join-calls-for-inquiry-into-recent-fifo-deaths/story-fnhocxo3-1227011398130
Heads Up, http://www.headsup.org.au/home
McPhedran, S. Mining, fly-in, fly-out workers and the risk of suicide, The Conversaton, 17/01/2013, http://theconversation.com/mining-fly-in-fly-out-workers-and-the-risk-of-suicide-9998
The Mentally Healthy Work Place Alliance, http://workplacementalhealth.com.au/