CME to Appear at FIFO Mental Health Inquiry

CME is today presenting at the State Parliamentary Inquiry into mental health and Fly In- Fly Out (FIFO) employees.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) is today presenting at the State Parliamentary Inquiry into mental health and Fly In- Fly Out (FIFO) employees.

CME Deputy Chief Executive Nicole Roocke will inform the Committee of the Western Australian resources sector’s leadership in addressing health and wellbeing in a work context.

“Every suicide is a tragic loss and with 366 suicides in WA in 2012, no one disagrees we have a problem in our State. We have an opportunity here to increase awareness and understanding of the complex issue of mental health and suicide prevention,” said Ms Roocke.

Despite assertions there have been 9 suicides among fly-in fly-out workers in the Pilbara in the past 12 months, this has not been substantiated, nor causal factors identified.

Proportionately, even at the unsubstantiated rate of 9 in the last twelve months, the rate of suspected suicides in fly-in fly-out workers per annum would be 13.4 per 100,000[1] whereas the state’s rate is 13.2 per 100,000, or for non-urban areas of WA 18.5 per 100,000[2].

This shows suicides in FIFO workers are occurring at a similar rate to that of the state and well below those occurring in the regions.  This should not diminish the impact these suicides have had, rather to highlight where the focus of efforts should be.

Mental health and wellbeing is far broader than the number of suicides; it varies over time and will be impacted by a range of factors, including quality of family and social supports, financial status, work and external environments and other individual factors.

“This makes responsibility for mental health issues a shared one – for individuals, government, community and industry,” said Ms Roocke.

In recent years, employees doing fly-in fly-out have been extensively researched, particularly in relation to their mental health.  While the stressors are clearly different given the nature of employment, the existing body of evidence does not indicate the mental health of fly-in fly-out employees is any worse than the general population, with some research suggesting the sector may be more resilient.

“Doing fly-in fly-out itself is not the direct cause of suicide or mental health conditions.  Mental health and wellbeing are complex issues determined by multiple and interacting factors, not just a single issue,” said Ms Roocke.

“The challenge for the inquiry, industry, community and government is to clearly understand what is causal, contributory or coincidental so we can respond to improve the health and wellbeing of not only the employees in the resources sector and their families but also the broader community of WA,” said Ms Roocke.

[1] 9 out of 67,000
[2] ABS Suicides report (3309) released in 2012 – for period 2006 - 2010.