Do mining companies need to communicate better on mental health?

When it comes to supporting employees experiencing mental health issues, the good intentions of mining companies might not be enough.

When it comes to supporting employees experiencing mental health issues, the good intentions of mining companies might not be enough.

 

In last month’s Mining People Poll we asked mining industry employees about their experiences with mental health in mining. Specifically, we asked whether they felt their company had been “supportive and proactively offered genuine assistance”.

 

Of the 85% of respondents who said they had experienced mental health problems while working in mining, 68% said they felt their company had offered genuine help. That means a third of employees experiencing mental health problems still aren’t getting the support they need.

How mining employees respond in mental health crises

While the response level was low for this poll (33 people took part), the results clearly skew towards those who have an interest in mental health in mining: those people are simply more likely to fill out a survey on the issue and the 85% figure probably bears that out. No one is suggesting 85% of people in mining have experienced mental health issues.

 

But what the results do give us is a decent understanding of how those in that situation handled it. We offered respondents a range of options and asked them what they did next.

 

Here’s what we discovered (note, the numbers have been rounded):

 

Action

Percentage

I accepted help from the company’s employee assistance program

14%

I did not seek help from my company

7%

I resigned

14%

I sought support from outside the company

4%

I spoke to my company, but they did nothing

57%

Other

4%

 

What mining companies need to know about mental health

Again, the number of respondents was small but there is still some good intelligence in here for mining companies.

 

Firstly, very few employees at all are asking for assistance from assistance programs. Among other things, this means companies are unlikely to be aware of the scale of mental health problems within their organization and any potential impact.

 

Secondly, employees are just as likely to resign as they are to seek help from assistance programs. This means companies are potentially losing good people who could otherwise have been helped and retained — with all the flow-on costs associated with potential downtime, recruitment, onboarding, and so on.

 

A disconnect in the data

Something else that’s clear from the data is there is a disconnect between the support on offer from mining companies and the action employees took. Of those who said they spoke to their company but the company did nothing (57%, as shown in the table above), three-quarters still said the company was supportive and offered genuine assistance.

 

Half of those who accepted help from the employee assistance program said their company was not supportive.

 

This disconnect might just be down to the small sample size we’re dealing with, or the limitations of the questions we asked.

The way forward for mining companies on mental health

So, what’s the take-out for mining companies from this data? It’s probably that simply having an employee assistance program is not enough in itself. There’s work to do in promoting the fact the program is there for those who need it and encouraging open talk about mental health issues.

 

It’s also important to ensure that if you’re offering help, you’re delivering on that promise – because it takes more than good intentions to make a difference. But, ultimately, making that difference will be good for your employees, and good for your company.

 

If you are looking for deep insights into the mining markets and would like MPi to conduct some targeted industry research on your behalf, then please email us. 

Dan Hatch
Mining People International