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Managing mental health is a sign of strength

One in four Australians lives with a mental health condition.

This means every day six million people are dealing with common conditions like anxiety, depression, alcohol or substance use and other disorders.

Across the resources industry, the risk of psychological challenges is even higher across the fly-in-fly-out workforce, which can lead to fatigue and stress and increase the occurrence of safety issues and risk of injury.

These challenges aren’t lost on Chris Harris, Corporate Psychologist and Head of Mental Health at Mineral Resources (MRL), who holds more than 30 years’ experience across psychology and mental health services including key roles helping children and young people manage mental health challenges and develop deeper understanding of the value of self-worth.

Chris is driven by a passion for reducing the stigma around mental health, making support services more accessible, and encouraging our employees to actively manage their physical and mental wellbeing.

“People are often reluctant to see a psychologist or visit a mental health clinic, so we need to put those resources where people work, live and play – and that’s at the core of my role at MRL,” he says.

“I particularly enjoy getting out to site. It’s good for my soul and seeing what our people achieve each day, it’s quite amazing.

But I also get to appreciate it can be a pretty tough gig. Our people are working hard and away from their families, which brings some unique challenges.”

Giving mental health a sporting chance

As a champion of mental health within our business, Chris helps empower employees to remove barriers preventing them from getting to where they want to be in life.

He says mental health – and life in general – is much like a contact sport, in that we’re continually being challenged or knocked off course in pursuit of our goals.

“These challenges might be due to relationships, dealing with sickness and injury, or personal or financial troubles – each of which can hit us pretty hard,” he says.

“Looking after your mental health and building resilience is about equipping one another with the information and resources to weather some of these knocks and keep going.”

Chris encourages an approach to mental health that mirrors how we deal with physical health challenges – whether a damaged shoulder or torn hamstring – by focusing our energy on what can be done to improve strength.

He emphasises that building resilience doesn’t mean having to tackle challenges alone.

“Mental health is about strengthening our capacity; it’s not about saying somebody has a weakness.

It’s like a physiotherapist for your brain, building flexibility and strengthening the mind so you can live life to the full.”

The pursuit of happiness

Chris considers the human brain the world’s most impressive machine, and one that’s also fitted with a built-in warning device: our emotional system.

“Our brains are hardwired for happiness, so when we’re content and have energy our likelihood for survival is greater than if we were miserable and couldn’t get up in the morning,” he says.

“When we stray from our happy path, our brain gives off warning signals. Things can seem harder, and we can become discouraged, tired or sad.

As our brain feeds us these signals, it’s important we listen and respond early,” Chris says.

“It’s telling us to take time to recharge, perhaps do things differently and seek support when it’s needed.

“Covering up warnings or considering them as weaknesses only compounds the issue and can lead to further challenges and impacts,” he adds.

“Accessing support is not about saying you have a problem; it’s about embracing the opportunity to build strength and capacity.”

A holistic approach to employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is about more than providing a physically safe workplace. It’s also about offering an environment that supports mental health and empowers everyone to be the best vision of themselves.

MRL’s focus is on treating mental health as we do physical health and safety and leading an approach to mental health that gives our staff, their families and our communities the confidence, willingness and skills to respond early to mental health needs in themselves and others.

Chris says MRL prioritising mental health reflects the value we see in our people.

“We want to let people know that everyone has a role, everyone is valued, and everyone has the right to feel a sense of belonging,” he says.

“Part of our mantra is about appreciating everyone within the team, recognising value in our colleagues and, most importantly, letting them know.”

MRL’s growing mental health program drives education, awareness and engagement initiatives demonstrating the steps we can all take to maintain positive mental health and wellbeing.

This includes in-house psychology services available to all staff, mental health first aid and literacy training to build employee capacity and advocacy, and access to confidential external counselling.

Our proud partnerships with organisations including Lifeline WA and Youth Focus also help drive a deeper understanding and appreciation of mental health education and resources across our business and employees.

Lifeline WA: 13 11 14