Health

FIFO health study

ALSHA COPPOLINA

June 19, 2013

Fly-in, fly out and Drive-in, drive-out resource workers are at higher risk of suicide according to suicide prevention agency, Lifeline WA.

Melissa Howie, Lifeline WA Fundraising and Marketing Manager, says that industries such as construction, mining, oil and gas typically have a larger ratio of males and are high-risk groups for suicide.

“The rate of suicide is going to be higher, purely because men are four times more likely to take their life through suicide,” Ms Howie said.

“We don’t know whether this is caused by the nature of the work or whether it is just a product of the type of people who generally levitate towards this work.”

Ms Howie says resource workers are important in Australia. She says the nation should ensure the lifestyles of such workers are healthy and sustainable over the long term.

Toward this end, Lifeline is conducting research to examine the causes of suicide and mental health problems in FIFO and DIDO workers.

“We hope to uncover the various coping mechanisms that people use to deal with this lifestyle and harness them to create further support systems for all workers in the industry,” she says.

Edith Cowan University is conducting the research, which has included online surveys and interviews with individual workers.

Graduate Mining Engineer, Jack Le Serve, is a FIFO worker in the Northern Pilbara who took part in the online survey.

Le Serve says that FIFO work can affect a person’s mental health. He said the work affected certain people more than others.

“The industry certainly has some issues with depression, anxiety and substance abuse amongst others,” he says,

“Any effort made to research and improve the mental well being of the workers in the FIFO industry is a worthwhile exercise.”

Adam Maccora is a Graduate Mining Engineer who works FIFO for Northen Star Resources in the Pilbara.

Mr Maccora said that research into the field was desperately needed.

“I have personally come into contact with many FIFO employees who have broken families or are simply unhappy with a situation they feel trapped in,” he said.

“The questions successfully invoked thought on topics which may not have been often considered or even realised.

“Hopefully this project can help to prioritise the problem areas and/or causes of mental health issues which require attention and clarify the methods through which these health risks can be mitigated.”

Photos by Alsha Coppolina

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