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By psychologist Jane Dodding

Even with all the education and anti-stigma messages we receive these days about depression, it is still common to hear people say "just toughen up" or "get over it". Be assured, if it was that easy, those suffering would.

Depression is very unpleasant and can be debilitating. These kind of comments are unhelpful and can cause harm – the person is giving themselves enough of a hard time without anyone else joining in. Through the lens of depression, the person is more than likely already thinking they are worthless, flawed and not as good as everyone else.

Having depression is not a weakness. It is not a personality issue. It is an illness.

Imagine saying to someone who has cancer: "You are just weak, toughen up."

When there are physical signs of illness or injury, it is much easier for us to understand and be more sympathetic. With depression it can be difficult to understand unless you have experienced it or know someone who has (even then it is hard to grasp what it is truly like).

We all know what it is like to be sad and depressed but that is not depression. Try to imagine feeling extremely sad or irritable all day, every day, consistently for at least two weeks. Nothing you do shifts that heavy feeling, you don’t want to talk or be around anyone, you cannot get yourself out of bed and having a shower is like running a marathon (without training). Your negative thoughts keep hounding you and you just want to sleep to escape them but you are having trouble sleeping. You feel worthless, life looks hopeless, you don’t get any joy out of the things you used to, the idea of eating makes you feel sick and your libido is non-existent. Everything is hard, you are dragging yourself around constantly being harassed by your own dark thoughts.

Sadly in the mining industry, we often hear comments like, "If they can’t hack it, they should leave."

Depression is not determined by your job, your gender, your age, your race. It is an illness that everyone, including you, is vulnerable to.

For FIFO workers, being away from the support of family, friends and health professionals can make managing depression harder, so it is particularly important in this industry that co-workers are educated, understanding, supportive and have each other’s backs. Being at work may actually help the person’s recovery by maintaining their routine, providing structure and giving them a sense of achievement and purpose.

Rather than kick people when they are down, you could show some compassion and help rather than hinder or harm their recovery (the kick back is you will feel better about yourself too). You could:

  • Educate yourself to gain a better understanding of what they are going through. Talk to people who have experienced depression and try to put yourself in their shoes.
  • Keep an eye on them and ask if they are okay. Lend an empathetic ear and give them an opportunity to talk if they want to.
  • Support them to do some activities which will help their recovery. For example, do some exercise with them, eat together, invite them to socialise or join you, chill out together.
  • Help them to get professional support if they haven’t already.

We offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. Please allow one week for a personal email response. Please also note that Q&As may be published on the Mining Family Matters website to help other families coping with similar challenges, however all names, locations and identifying information will be removed to ensure your anonymity.

Mining Family Matters aims to break down the barriers of isolation and the stresses of living away from family and friends. Although this website provides general advice from a psychologist and practical tips from mining families, the content should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. Always speak to your doctor or specialist provider for advice on a specific medical condition. If you are depressed and require urgent assistance, call 9-1-1 or visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at www.cmha.ca.


Jane Dodding is a highly experienced psychologist based in South Australia. www.mindsplus.com.au