Mining Mental Health Results

About Vale

Mining Mental Health Results

From left to right: Dr. Michel Larivière, Dr. Zsuzsana Kerekes along with Keith Hanson, former occupational health and disability management lead at our operations in Ontario, worked on the Mining Mental Health study. Michel is a clinical psychologist and former associate director for CROSH. Zsuzsana is a post-doctoral fellow with CROSH (Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health) who did most of the data collection, data crunching and report writing.
From left to right: Dr. Michel Larivière, Dr. Zsuzsana Kerekes along with Keith Hanson, former occupational health and disability management lead at our operations in Ontario, worked on the Mining Mental Health study. Michel is a clinical psychologist and former associate director for CROSH. Zsuzsana is a post-doctoral fellow with CROSH (Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health) who did most of the data collection, data crunching and report writing. Photo: Workplace Safety North

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T​​he final results are in. After five years of studying 2,224 Sudbury-based Vale employees (88 per cent male, 10.9 per cent female), averaging 43.6 years of age, we know that the overall state of our mental health is both similar to popular norms, with respect to depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and above popular norms when it comes to sleep, fatigue, burnout and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The $500,000 Mining Mental Health project was funded through the Ontario Joint Occupational Health Committee, with voluntary participation from our employees, and carried out in conjunction with members of the Steelworkers Union (USW) and the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH) at Laurentian University and the Canadian Guards Association (CGA).

We are trailblazers 

“[This study] was a first for Vale, and the mining industry in general, because no one has been able to capture such a large population [until now],” said Dr. Michel Larivière, a clinical psychologist and former associate director for CROSH who led the study, along with Keith Hanson, our former occupational health and disability management lead at our operations in Ontario. “Participation rate was so high,” Michel added. “It was completely unexpected. Higher than we could have hoped.”

Keith said: “While some results were in line with general Canadian population norms, there were others that surprised us. We would have never known about these key areas if we did not conduct the study”

 

We need more sleep!

Particularly illuminating were our responses to sleep, fatigue and PTSD because we trend above the nation’s norm. For example, we average about 6.2 hours of sleep per night, while the average Canadian gets 7.1 hours per night. That’s a deficit of one hour a night, which becomes seven hours over a week, approximately 30 hours in a given month and 360 over a year. It adds up.

Further, 79.3 per cent of us feel “elevated” levels of fatigue (there is no Canadian norm for this; however, almost 80 per cent is concerning). Those of us who are shift workers seem to be suffering the most as we reported poorer sleep quality than our colleagues who are non-shift workers.

So yeah, we’re tired. But what does less sleep and more fatigue actually mean? In a nutshell: it’s about quality of life.

Exhaustion leads to other problems

We know better sleep leads to better quality of life, including better physical and psychological health, and healthier social relationships. Therefore, sleep and fatigue deficits are not isolated problems; instead, our exhaustion cascades into other areas of our lives, and puts pressure on our state of mind, our bodies and relationships with our family and friends and coworkers.

The findings also indicate that we are just above the norm for PTSD with those that indicated a level of symptoms to where they should be screened at 10.5 per cent (versus 9.2 per cent of Canadians).

When it comes to absenteeism from work, and returning to work, the most important factor is support from our family, friends, health care professionals and at work from our supervisors. Without these pillars of support, we are more likely to be absent and less likely to return in a timely manner.

Okay, this is all very interesting but how will these findings help us?

“Vale, USW and CROSH have allowed us (doctors, researchers, medical professionals) to have a baseline that hadn’t yet existed,” Michel said. “… And we’re especially grateful to the [employees who participated] for addressing such extraordinarily sensitive issues.”

Using this baseline, further analysis will be conducted, intervention strategies will be evaluated and then implemented, and the effectiveness of these implemented strategies will be assessed.

Keith said that Vale can now use the findings to develop key strategic initiatives in our workplace, prioritizing them in to short-, medium- and longer-term goals.

“We’re trying to maximize the mental health of all employees,” Keith said, “to create an organization where it’s okay to talk about mental health, and where folks can come forward so we don’t feel like we need to hide.”​​​​​​​​​

Click here to read the Mining Mental Health Report​
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