Do we really need RU OK? Day in the mining industry?

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September 12, 2019, is RU OK? Day. Here’s what you need to know to help raise awareness of mental illness in the mining industry.

September 12 is RU OK? Day. It’s a national day of not just awareness but of action around mental health. It’s a day when Australians are invited to ask friends, family and colleagues whether they are actually OK, or whether they’re doing it tough and need some support.

With the publicity surrounding the day, it’s likely someone will ask you “are you OK?” at some point in the coming weeks.

RU OK? in the mining workplace

But why do healthy, well-managed workplaces need a day to promote “checking in” with your colleagues and teammates you perhaps don’t even know very well? Isn’t checking in on someone the role of supervisors, mates, friends, spouses, siblings, the health and safety team, or even health professionals? Why do you have to check in on your colleagues?

Are we that busy we need a day to remind us to check in on those around us?

The answer is, yes.

I have friends who work in large organisations and they can go weeks at work without a conversation about anything other than work-related matters. On mining operations in particular, where people are operating machinery or working remotely, it may only be at shift change and the bus ride to and from work where any interaction with other people occurs.

I’ve spoken to people during incredibly stressful periods of their mining work careers where the only follow-up they receive from mine management at all has been a cursory check-in, in the kitchen or on the plane home at the end of their fly-in fly-out roster.

The reality of mental health and mining

The reality is we spend more time with our work colleagues than our significant others. Our colleagues may notice changes before other people in our lives. And they’re often more likely to ask us if we’re OK than someone closer to us.

RU OK? is not about only checking in with people for one day of the year. It’s about noticing the signs at any time that someone might need support and asking them if they do.

So, yes, we do need RU OK? Day. We need it for our families and friends. We need it for our mates, colleagues, managers and team members. We need it for the people we see occasionally in our lives, for the people we share our lives with, and for those whom we care deeply about.

What you can do about your mental health in mining

There are now Mental Health First Aiders at mine sites across Australia, so there are people who are trained in starting a conversation about mental health. But if you haven’t done your mental health first aid, check out the resources on the RU OK? website.

The website has resources and guides you might find useful, including advice about how to hold an RU OK? Day event at your mine site or mining company corporate head office. Even just printing a few posters or putting them up on your noticeboards is a help.

If you need to talk to someone, here are some numbers to call:

Lifeline 13 11 14
MensLine 1300 789 978
beyondblue 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800