Mental health program for Queensland energy sector launched

An industry-leading program designed to improve mental health and tackle suicide in the energy sector has been launched this week.

Mates in Energy builds upon the pioneering work of not-for-profit program partner Mates in Construction and will be rolled out to Ergon Energy and Energex employees from Torres Strait to the Gold Coast.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Energy Mark Bailey said the program is the first of its type tailored for the Australian energy sector.

“Poor mental health can affect anyone – one in five adult Australians experiences a mental illness in any given year, and nearly half of us will be directly affected during our lifetime,” Mr Bailey said.

“Under Mates In Energy, more than 7000 employees of state government-owned electricity distributors Ergon and Energex will receive special awareness training delivered by Mates in Construction to boost their resilience and to improve the network of support.

“This will mean mentally healthier workplaces, homes and communities throughout our state, and a real focus on suicide prevention.

“It follows the appointment of two dedicated mental health advocates from within Energy Queensland’s companies, and will flow into more intensive training of volunteer employees who will provide powerful peer-to-peer support.”

Mr Bailey said Mates In Energy would build understanding of how we create mentally healthy workplaces.

“This will ensure there’s appropriate support for people experiencing difficulties, and will go a long way to eliminating stigma,” Mr Bailey said.

“Mates In Energy will be rolled out in 2018, helping to create safer and happier workplaces for employees and, by extension, healthier and more resilient communities for all Queenslanders.”

Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said Mates in Construction provided a great role model for the newly established Mates in Energy.

“Mates in Construction has received $1 million in funding over 18 months from the Palaszczuk Government to expand its program into small businesses and rural and remote areas,” Ms Grace said.

“The impact of suicide is devastating, affecting families, work colleagues, communities, service providers and first responders.

“Our funding is helping Mates in Construction to spread the message in rural and remote areas – suicide is a workplace issue that we all need to address together.

“Broncos captain Darius Boyd has taken on the role of inaugural Mates in Construction ambassador, and is fulfilling this role in between his football commitments.

“Darius is keen to get out onto construction sites to talk with workers, especially those struggling with mental health issues.”

Other Queensland Government-owned energy corporations, as well as energy industry partners in Queensland and interstate have also expressed strong interest in getting involved in Mates In Energy.

CS Energy was the first Queensland Government-owned energy corporation to become an accredited Mates in Construction employer and now has 57 employees across its four sites trained in suicide awareness and how to connect people to professional help.

CS Energy will transfer over to the newly created Mates in Energy.

Last week, Energy Networks Australia released theEnergy Networks Australia Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.