Protecting mental health in the shadow of COVID-19

Rob Telford

Group Health, Safety and Environment Officer

The world has changed significantly since the COVID-19 outbreak. 

International borders have closed, curfews have been introduced, and domestic travel has been limited. Many of us understand that these responses are necessary to slow the spread of the virus and support health care systems worldwide, but these changes bring with them a mental health cost that will continue to challenge the resilience and wellbeing of all of us in the months ahead.

With the United Nations predicting COVID-19 could plant the seed for a global mental health crisis1, governments, health care organisations, communities and businesses must apply the lessons from the pandemic response and flatten this new mental health curve early.

We invested US$37.5 million in health and wellbeing social investment initiatives to support the communities where we live and operate

At BHP, we have been alert and deeply engaged on the mental health of our people dealing with COVID-19 from the onset of the pandemic.

There is increasing consensus among health professionals that taking care of our mental health is just as important as our physical health2, both at work and at home. So when we implemented stringent health and safety measures across our operations and offices in response to the virus, we were also focused on building the mental resilience of our people. 

We launched a live wellbeing survey early on in the crisis to provide support in real time. From the data, we were able to understand triggers early and provide people with services to promote a better headspace. To assist our teams globally through COVID-19, we also needed to support their loved ones. To this end, we made all of our mental health tools available to their families.

At some Australian locations, this meant relocating international or interstate FIFO employees and their families to their work location to avoid long quarantine periods and, where possible, keep families together. In other locations, simple things like scheduling a break in a time critical maintenance activity to call loved ones or offering flexible hours to better suit those working from home. These were in addition to our existing global measures like our Resilience Program, Employee Assistance Program, leader training and support, and dedicated awareness campaigns. We will continue to evolve these over time.

Since we took these steps, we have seen a marked improvement based on our survey results. But let’s be real here, that doesn’t mean we don’t all struggle from time to time and when we are caught in the centre of things, it gets hard.

We will continue to improve how we support our people and are constantly exploring new and innovative ways to strengthen mental resilience so we are all better equipped to manage these prolonged periods of uncertainty.

 
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Four ways BHP is focused on mental wellbeing

Learn more about how we are adapting to the changing environment to keep our people safe, engaged and resilient.