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Miners-in-training being schooled in mental health awareness

NORCAT introducing new component to common core programming
wsn_mental_health_training
NORCAT trainers attend mental health awareness training with Angele Poitras, Psychological Health and Safety Advisor at Workplace Safety North. A mental health awareness session is being incorporated into common core training for the diamond driller and underground hard rock mine workers.

NORCAT is integrating mental health awareness training into its mining-related common core programming.

The new component applies to both the surface and underground diamond drilling and the underground hard rock miner common core programs offered by the Sudbury-based innovation and training centre.

“We cannot emphasize the importance of mental health enough; it impacts every aspect of our lives, including work,” said Jason Bubba, chief operating officer at NORCAT, in a May 3 news release.

“By incorporating mental health awareness sessions into existing training, NORCAT hopes to open up the conversation about why mental health matters, signs and symptoms, and how each of us can make a difference in the workplace and beyond.”

Bubba said the facility will incorporate mental health training into additional courses over time.

The guidance for NORCAT's trainers comes from Workplace Safety North (WSN), the North Bay-based health and safety association that provides training and services for mining, forestry, and other Northern Ontario businesses.

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Angele Poitras, WSN's psychological health and safety advisor, who's been certified with the Canadian Mental Health Association, conducted an introductory mental health awareness training session for NORCAT staff in March, and Poitras will conduct a second session in May.

“The feedback so far has been hugely positive,” Poitras said in the release.

“Before the training, the majority (of students) rated their comfort level talking to others about mental health in the low to mid-range, and afterwards they all felt comfortable recognizing mental health concerns, being more receptive to others, looking for warning signs, and listening more.”

Awareness about mental health issues and how to address them is becoming an area of concern for the industry.

The results of a three-year study of mental health in Vale's Sudbury miners, Mining Mental Health, released in 2019, showed that 56 per cent of participants were experiencing concerning signs of mental illness, including depression, thoughts of suicide, and post-traumatic distress disorder.

After further breaking down the results, researchers earlier this year reported that participants were experiencing "significant” levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

The study, which marked the first of its kind for the mining sector, was a joint initiative of Vale, the United Steelworkers, and the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH) at Laurentian University.

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