SECOND NATURE: Techserve human resource specialist Megan Pettitt and specialised services and training manager Gary Kent have seen a drastic change in how mental health is discussed in the mining industry.
SECOND NATURE: Techserve human resource specialist Megan Pettitt and specialised services and training manager Gary Kent have seen a drastic change in how mental health is discussed in the mining industry. Zizi Averill

FIFO: Healthy minds in the mines

IT CAN be hard to think of "big tough miners" as vulnerable people.

But far away from their loved ones and after an exhausting shift, human resources specialist Megan Pettitt said mine workers could be exposed to severe mental health issues.

Working for the resources and energy consulting company Techserve, Ms Pettitt said she had spent years trying to break down barriers in the industry.

But it's still a difficult job to get a "big tough miner" to open up about their feelings, she said. As a male dominated industry she said there was a continuing problem that "men like to bottle things up".

"Men in the past have not wanted to talk about these things. That's the mentality we are trying to address," she said.

One of the great mental health issues for workers is the industry's reliance on FIFO and DIDO workers, Ms Pettitt said.

"You need to consider these people are working away from their families and friends and loved ones for long periods of time," she said. "That can have a strain on any relationship."

According to the Queensland Government in 2018 there were an estimated 18,410 non-resident resource sector employees in the Bowen Basin. A 2018 Rural and Remote Mental Health report found more than a quarter of FIFO workers experienced a high to very high level of psychological distress

The conversations about mental health around the lunch table is changing, specialised services and training manager Gary Kent said.

He said there had been a drastic shift in the past two decades.

"People were quite dismissive and there was a general attitude of 'Ah, she'll be all right' or 'suck it up' attitude."

Over the years he has seen mental health awareness slowly become "second nature" within the mining community.