Mental Health Awareness Increasing Among Oil, Gas Industry

Mental Health Awareness Increasing Among Oil, Gas Industry
Mindfulness-based stress management is growing in popularity across the oil and gas industry, says Robert Gordon University's Dr Steve Smith.

Mindfulness-based stress management is growing in popularity across the oil and gas industry as the sector responds to a rise in mental health awareness, according to Robert Gordon University Senior Lecturer in Mental Health and Wellbeing, Dr Steve Smith.

“Approaches involving mindfulness meditation are attracting increased attention as the benefits of this skills-based technique are becoming recognized,” said Smith.

The fall in oil price and its effect on the economic state of the industry, resulting in thousands of redundancies, has meant that stress related conditions such as anxiety and depression have become important issues within the sector, Smith revealed.

“The economic uncertainty has resulted in a rise in stress related problems, causing issues for organizations as they come to realize that the mental health of their workforce is a major asset to be protected,” he said.

“We already know that stress related illness is one of the major causes of sickness related absence in industry. Work related stress accounted for almost half (43 percent) of all days lost to the British economy in 2014/15, with 440,000 workers affected and a total of 9.9 million days lost…While every employer is aware of the need to protect employees from the effects of harmful and toxic work environments, some are coming to see the benefits of proactively protecting the mental wellbeing of their workforce too,” Smith added.

Smith is currently working with North Sea oil and gas companies as they seek new ways to proactively protect their workforce from the harmful effects of work related stress. Mindfulness-based approaches are one of the most accessible mental health solutions used by organizations of all sizes and across all sectors, encouraging participants to focus on what is happening now as opposed to becoming engaged in thoughts of future or past events.

“In very practical terms, it’s easy to adopt the techniques of mindfulness practice,” Smith told Rigzone.

“Mindfulness-based training is flexible to any audience and working environment, and has been shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety, lessen distraction and increase attention to task. Mindfulness practice can also help staff to achieve more and to a higher standard,” said Smith.

“Many organizations are providing free mindfulness classes for their staff; RGU has been doing this for the last three years, and as word spreads other organizations are offering drop-in sessions and structured programs providing instruction and support for staff to ‘be-in-the-moment’,” he added.

Premier Oil was the first oil and gas company to engage with RGU’s mental health solutions, agreeing to conduct an initial trial involving a volunteer group of 12 staff exploring Mindfulness Based Stress Management as a means to proactively protect its workforce.  

“With the challenges of modern working life, we recognized the value in offering mindfulness training to our employees as one means of improving and maintaining their wellbeing. We wanted to offer a skill that would benefit employees at home as well as at work. It was well received by the trial group and we intend to offer this training to the wider population in our UK Business,” said Vic Retalic, UK HSE & Security Manager for Premier Oil.

Dr Steve Smith discusses the importance of mental health management and the practicalities of adopting Mindfulness techniques.


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