Mental health in the Mining workplace: life lessons from Aussie Rules footy

Earlier this year, Collingwood defender Harry O'Brien did one of the bravest things I've ever seen a sportsperson do. He went public on his battle with depression and his personal 'demons'.

By: Theresa Lardner

Earlier this year, Collingwood defender Harry O’Brien did one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen a sportsperson do – he went public on his battle with depression and his personal ‘demons’. Even if you’re not an AFL fan, it’s hard to remain unmoved by this young man’s obvious struggle. Of course, players like Harry are elite athletes who live in a bubble of public scrutiny and continuous training for peak performance, but there are still a lot of similarities between a sporting team and a workplace team: there are captains, leadership teams, players, coaches and supporters in any workplace. This is why I found Harry’s admission – and the subsequent reaction of the football club and Magpies coach Nathan Buckley – so fascinating in terms of dealing with mental health in the workplace. (If you haven’t seen the news on it, click here for the Sydney Morning Herald article.) Inspired by Harry’s story, I thought I’d share some ways to support your co-workers and staff – and offer some additional resources to help. Invest time and energy in colleagues doing it tough If one of your workmates has admitted they’re going through a tough time, don’t sweep it under the rug and ignore it. Sometimes ignorance seems easier in the short term, but things will inevitably get worse if they’re not tackled. Instead, try this:

  • Spend time together on something you both enjoy. It might be playing a game of pool in the rec room, eating together in the mess … anything really. If talk turns to what’s going on for them, try not to problem solve or dismiss the issue.
  • Ask if they’ve spoken to their partner, GP or a professional about the what’s happening. If not, encourage them to do this.
  • Suggest some different resources if your workmate isn’t willing to talk to anyone else about the issue. Some great websites include:
  • www.beyondblue.org.au: in the ‘Resources’ section, look for links under ‘In the workplace’ including a section on how you can help a colleague or co-worker
  • www.lifeline.org.au: offers useful brochures called Tool Kits on a range of mental health issues and ways to get support.

Please enter an image description. Well done Redpath on raising awareness of depression within the mining industry by supporting beyondblue with their blue MT6020

Be a supportive manager like Buckley

If you’re a manager of a team and one of your staff is going through a tough time, take a leaf out of Nathan Buckley’s book:

  • Acknowledge the difficulties the person is going through and keep the lines of communication open. Lots of assumptions get made in situations that involve mental illness, so do your best to avoid this through strong and honest communication
  • Talk to the person about their current responsibilities and discuss any tasks that may be delegated or postponed for a period of time
  • Encourage them to access support available within the organisation – be it a good HR contact or referral to the company EAP, with a good explanation of what it is