Mining company has a closer look at mental health of employees

A new report looking into the mental health and well-being of Vale employees will be released in Sudbury on Thursday.

Research into mental health and wellbeing of Vale employees being released Thursday

The family of a late Sudbury mine worker has been awarded over $2 million in damages from the Ontario government, which a court found negligent in his death. (iStockphoto)

A new report looking into the mental health and well-being of Vale employees will be released in Sudbury on Thursday.

The research was done by Vale and a Laurentian University professor and clinical psychologist.

Keith Hanson, the occupational health and disability management lead with Vale Canada, says when they first started having a closer look at the topic, they didn't know how big of an issue mental health was for miners.

"When we looked at our data and our information on what's the key health drivers that drive disability, we realized that mental health is the number one driver of disability in our organization," he said.

Hanson presented this information to management and was asked why mental health was such an issue. Hanson said he didn't know but suggested work be done to find out.

Eventually, that lead to the research between Vale and Dr. Michele Larivière at Laurentian University.

In total, 2,224 employees filled out a lengthy questionnaire.

Larivière says the questions were designed to get a sense of the state of someone's mental health.

"Typically those are things like depression, anxiety, fatigue and burnout," he said. "Things like leisure activities and work life balance, relationships and also a bunch of workplace related issues as well."

What they found out

After the information was collected, Hanson and Larivière compiled report that is 60 chapters long.

"A lot of [the results] tends to resemble a lot of what we find in the general population," Larivière said.

"What seems a bit different here are things like measures of depressive relative symptoms, which we found to be slightly higher, the anxiety was pretty much on par with what we see in the general population."

Larivière says rates of PTSD were also higher than the general population and sleep issues were also reported as problematic.

Dr. Michel Larivière and Keith Hanson are the two researchers who had a closer look at the state of mental health for workers at Vale. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

"It really allows us to dig in to what things we can be doing on an individual basis and what things we can be doing from an organization perspective," Hanson said.

Now that some key issues have been brought forward, Hanson says conversations are happening between the company, health and safety committee and union to address them.

"We're still working on that," he said. "But it's really given us a roadmap for us to be able to focus on key things that we've never known."

Before this, Hanson says there were no studies done on mental health of workers in mining.


Martha Dillman is a multimedia journalist based in Sudbury. You can find her on Twitter @marthaCBC or by email


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