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More research on how fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) work affects mental health has been recommended by a Queensland parliamentary report.

“While the exact prevalence of mental health conditions in FIFO workers is currently unknown, there is a clear recognition that there are a range of general workplace stress factors and specific aspects of the FIFO role that may put workers, their families and communities at risk for mental health problems,” the report stated.

According to the report, some of these factors and aspects include the following: separation from family and friends, transitioning between home and work life and the disruption to family life, maintaining regular meaningful communication with family and friends, and fatigue.

The report recommends the Queensland Minister for State Development, in consultation with the Office of Industrial Relations and Queensland Mental Health Commission, undertake additional mental health research.

Among the issues to be researched, the report suggests examining the resilience of FIFO workers, workplace programs or external programs to prevent mental health injuries in FIFO workers, family support programs, and suicide risk and protective factors.

Meanwhile the Western Australian (WA) Government has responded to the findings of a WA parliamentary report into the impact of FIFO work on the mental health of workers in the resources industry.

“We will now work with the Mining Industry Advisory Committee (MIAC) and the Mental Health Commission to address the report’s recommendations,” WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Bill Marmion said in a media statement.

The WA Government welcomed the report’s recommended focus on improving the understanding of the complex factors that contribute to mental illness and suicide risk among workers.

The WA Government is also looking at changing existing codes of practice in response, and addressing some of the recommendations in the WA Work Health and Safety (Resources) Bill.

For more details, visit the Queensland parliamentary report and the WA response

Published on 22 October 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin enewsletter – available free every fortnight direct to your email. Subscribe online today.

People living and working with mental illness should expect much more, says the World Federation for Mental Health.

This week is World Mental Health Week and the theme for the year’s awareness raising is “Dignity in Mental Health”.

According to Australia’s Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, one in six working age Australians are living with mental illness, costing Australian businesses $11 billion a year. In addition, many in the workforce are juggling work while caring for someone with a mental illness.

The Alliance provides an evidenced-based strategy for creating a mentally healthy workplace. It covers changing the design of work, such as introducing flexible work hours; building better cultures, such as training managers in creating mentally health workplaces; supporting recovery; and increasing awareness.

Globally, the report, Dignity in Mental Health from the World Federation for Mental Health, says: “We can create a world where everyone affected by mental health conditions has the best chance possible to succeed and recover free from fear and isolation.”

The report also notes that the global community is a “long way [from] our Destination Dignity”, but is on the road.

If you need immediate assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression, contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

For more details on the story, visit World Federation for Mental Health and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance

Published on 8 October 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin enewsletter – available free every fortnight direct to your email. Subscribe online today.

Bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment are rife among surgeons, according to a recent report from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

“Now that the extent and impact of these issues is clear, there can be no turning back,” said Hon. Rob Knowles AO, Chair, Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment advising the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

“We have been shocked by what we have heard. The time for action has come.”

EAG research has found that 49 per cent of Fellows, trainees and international medical graduates report being subjected to discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment. Bullying is the most frequently reported issue in 71 per cent of hospitals.

Part of the problem is attributed to unhealthy working conditions. There is an expectation that trainees should endure the same work practices that their supervisors had to put up with when they were training.

Some of those surveyed for the research complained of supervisors demanding unpaid overtime to ‘toughen up’ trainees.

Others pointed to grossly inappropriate comments, such as “you can join us in theatre – not to do anything, just for eye candy” and “I was told I would only be considered for a job if I had my tubes tied”.

A key finding of the Discrimination, Bullying and Sexual Harassment Survey was “that ‘known bullies’ are untouchable [by the College/societies and in the workplace] and that bullying has become normalised as a culturally accepted behaviour”.

For more details, visit the EAG report

Published on 24 September 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin enewsletter – available free every fortnight direct to your email. Subscribe online today.

Smarter work design, better work cultures and building individual resilience are the top three ways to create a mentally healthy workplace.

According to the report, ‘Developing a Mentally Healthy Workplace: A review of the literature’, smarter work design means improving flexibility of working hours, encouraging a better work culture through a safe and positive work climate, and building individual resilience by providing coaching and mentoring, among other activities.

The report says three other key workplace mental health initiatives include promoting and facilitating early help-seeking, supporting recovery, and increasing awareness of workplace mental health issues.

Importantly, the report notes that to establish and maintain a mentally healthy workplace, there must be commitment, leadership and support from management, a situational analysis to determine what works, identification and implementation of a workplace mental health strategy, and a review of the outcomes.

Earlier this week, the Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Professor Allan Fels, commented on the release of the report.

“The opportunity cost of not promoting good mental health at work, and not supporting people who have mental illness or care for others who do is … very, very high,” he said in a media statement.

“Nonetheless, almost all of us have witnessed people and practices in the workplace that ignore the needs of individuals or sometimes the whole team, and the resulting impacts such as staff turnover, absenteeism, low productivity and poor morale.”

For more details visit the report and Professor Fels

Published on 4 December 2014 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin

With many Australians continuing to rate the workplace as a source of stress, maybe the answer is to go home on time?

Over the past four years, about 44 per cent of Australian workers have rated workplace issues as a source of stress, says the ‘Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2014’ conducted by the Australian Psychological Society (APS).

When it comes to job stress, “working Australians reported similar levels of job stress to those reported in 2013, but significantly higher when compared with findings in 2012 and 2011”, the survey says.

Overall workplace wellbeing measures have also remained much the same for the past two years. “Working Australians reported similar levels of overall workplace wellbeing to those reported in 2013, but significantly lower when compared with findings in 2012 and 2011,” the survey states.

One of the interesting findings of the survey notes that “… support from work colleagues (less than two in five Australians) and support from community groups or organisations (just over one in three Australians) were reported the least by Australians as helpful strategies for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”

One way to combat stress may be to go home from work on time each day. Wednesday was Go Home On Time Day. “On any given day, 2.8 million Australians have little certainty around what time they will finish work …” says The Australia Institute.

“That’s the equivalent of one in four workers regularly having to juggle their other commitments, such as child care, social activities or important appointments, because of the unpredictability of their job.”

“Many Australians continue to struggle with the idea of saying no to last-minute meetings at the end of a working day, or turning their smartphone to silent when they get home, and numerous studies have shown that workers are more productive if they take scheduled breaks and annual leave,” says Dr Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute’s executive director.

For more details, visit the APS survey and Go Home On Time Day

Published on 20 November 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin

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