Using Exercise to Overcoming Mental Health Issues Related to FIFO Working
Its well established there are strong links between the demands of FIFO work and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide. The aggravating factors being a macho culture where workers are reluctant to seek assistance or admit they have a problem due to redundancy risks, prison-like camp conditions and the supervisors being ill equipped to deal with workers issues. The end result for the FIFO workers and their families’ amounts to relationship stress, substance abuse, violence and or death\suicide.
Its clear there is a problem. The West Australian government Inquiry released today, sought to address the issue of FIFO suicide rates after nine FIFO workers took their life in one year. Although to be fair, this rate may be inline with suicide rates in the rest of Australia (These 9 reported deaths were onsite, there has been no investigation with offsite FIFO deaths). The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy which represents the mining industry during the inquiry says there is little data to support the suicide link. An interim report published by the West Australian Education and Health Standing Committee stated “..it is clear from the information reported…that the resource industry has an issue with mental health within its workforce..”
Could the answer be simple? In a survey commissioned by Lifeline in 2013 which studied nearly 950 FIFO workers, it recommended increasing self help seeking behaviour, developing targeted support, providing strategies to reduce the mental health stigma, exercise and eating healthily. Exercise and getting a good night sleep was listed by some in the findings, as a positive coping mechanisms. The WA Inquiry report recommended amongst other things * FIFO workers and their families should have access to an induction program to better prepare them for the lifestyle.
While the benefits of exercise and improved lifestyle seem abstract and hard to measure, they a no doubt evident. Exercise releases hormones called “Endorphins” and are named as such as they a naturally occurring opioids which block or reduce pain, ease feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depressions. It’s commonly cited by people after exercise that pain levels are reduced and they are left with a feeling of euphoria.
An investigation conducted by Joe Morgan of Fitness++ while researching ways of overcoming drug dependence through exercise, found that the body of work exactly fitted the problems related to FIFO workers, as exercise was a good way of improving or easing anxiety and depression symptoms. “The link occurred to me while reading about FIFO workers’ issues in the papers. If they have limited opportunity for exercise, or are making bad lifestyle choices then they are not unlike other people except the anxiety triggers are greater and may be amplified while isolated in camp. Regular exercise, improved nutrition and regular sleep help alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms.”
The Reported was tabled today by the Western Australian Government and can be found here.