Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide

Research suggests that at work, people are more likely to seek help from colleagues than more formal support programmes

Peer supporter Taurai Gusha shares why mental health is important and how we can support people through difficult times

For people suffering with mental health issues, talking to someone they trust can make all the difference.

Research suggests that when people do reach out for help, particularly in a work environment, they are more likely to approach friends and colleagues, rather than more formal support programmes.

This is one of the reasons why Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore business introduced a peer support programme. The programme, which launched in 2012, equips employees at all levels and parts of the business to support their colleagues through difficult times.

Taurai Gusha, a mobile mining equipment fitter at Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina iron ore mine, has been one of the business’s peer supporters for the past two years. He shares his thoughts on why mental health is important, and how we can support our family, friends and team mates.

What does your role as a peer supporter involve?

I help people around our site who are struggling with a few problems – it could be mental health issues, they may be having a down moment in their life, or it could be issues at home with their kids. It varies day to day.

As a peer supporter, I lend a listening ear and I also help people to access professional services or any other help they may need. It’s about creating a safe, confidential and trustworthy environment for people.

About Taurai Gusha

About Taurai Gusha

Taurai Gusha is a mobile mining equipment fitter at Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina iron ore mine, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

Taurai Gusha is a mobile mining equipment fitter at Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina iron ore mine, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

A former professional rugby player, Taurai has always had a love of team environments. Taurai says this is one of the reasons he joined the Iron Ore business’s peer support programme – it’s one way he can play a part in creating a positive, healthy and safe work environment for his team.

Why did you join the peer support programme?

I enjoy working with people. I used to play rugby professionally – so I’ve always enjoyed a team environment. I put my hand up for the programme because I thought it was a good way to keep people happy and healthy on the job.

Why are programmes like this one so important in the mining industry?

In our industry, we have so many people working away from their loved ones. Sometimes it can be pretty hard for people when they’re lonely, working long hours and they may have things going on at home. When people are lonely, anxiety and depression can kick in.

We spend two thirds of the year on a worksite, so it’s important people have a support network inside work. And even though we’re at work, it’s very important that we’re able to discuss troubles that we’re having outside of work too.

It’s good to have people at the same level, like team mates, who can help – just to talk. It can make a big difference.

"R U OK?"
A conversation could
change a life

"R U OK?"

Thursday 14 September is R U OK? Day, Australia’s national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that we’ve all got what it takes to ask: “Are you ok?” and support those struggling with life.

Taking part can be as easy as learning R U OK?’s four steps so you can have a conversation that could change a life. The day is about inspiring people to start these conversations every day of the year.

R U OK?'s vision is a world where we're all connected and are protected from suicide. Visit the organisation’s website to see how you can get involved.

Why is mental wellbeing important?

It’s important at work because a healthy mind is also a safe and productive mind: a mind that is able to identify hazards, and support other people around them. In my area, for example, we’re responsible for maintaining mobile mining equipment – that ranges from dozers to 300 tonne trucks. In that environment, all you need is for someone not to be focused for an incident to occur, and that could result in the loss of a limb or another injury. Our main focus is to get people home safely, and mentally healthy.

It’s good to have a healthy mindset when we go home to our loved ones at the end of our roster. The healthier you are mentally, the better you are for yourself, your family and your team.

What can we all do to maintain our mental wellbeing?

If you have something that’s worrying you, I encourage you to talk to someone.

Keeping our people safe
and healthy

Keeping our people
safe and healthy

At Rio Tinto, safety is our first and most important priority. And health – both physical and mental – is key to safety.

At Rio Tinto, safety is our first and most important priority. And health – both physical and mental – is key to safety.

Peer support is just one of the resources we have to help look after the mental health and wellbeing of our workforce – and our peer support networks are being extended more widely through the business.

We provide mental health training to leaders of all levels, to equip them to support employees in their teams. We are encouraging awareness of the issues through our “Healthful minds” initiatives, which empower employees to make healthy decisions. And we’re promoting programmes around exercise and nutrition, and other factors that can help with mental wellbeing.

There is a range of other resources available to employees, including a confidential employee and family assistance programme, which provides professional coaching and support for people about a range of issues.

What can we do to support our family, friends and team mates who may be struggling?

If you’re concerned someone is having a tough time, talk to them – don’t be scared to ask them if they’re ok. Listen to them and don’t judge, and advise them to seek help.

We need to be receptive to all our team members, show respect and help them get support if they need it.