Mental Health in the Oil & Gas Industry

This is a topic I have wanted to write about for a while now but for one reason or another I just haven’t got round to putting pen to paper, metaphorically at least. I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me so long to get it out there, I’ll say it’s because I’ve been busy trying to maintain work in an industry facing significant difficulty; but in many ways just because it’s hard to talk about based on experiences with close friends. I guess that’s part of the problem though, right?

Why am I writing this?

In this, I want to briefly explore the impact that Covid-19, industry downturn, furlough, and redundancies have had on the mental health of a phenomenal number of people globally within the Oil & Gas sector.

Why the Oil & Gas industry? Put simply, I know mental health problems are not exclusive to this industry, but in reality I spend my working days speaking to clients and candidates from the sector, and so I want to only speak about the specific pressures I have discussed, and maybe will be able to do justice to.

At Leap29, I work as a Senior Recruitment Consultant with 4 years of experience in the North Sea Oil & Gas market, (apart from a travelling sabbatical but that’s a story for another article ). From those years I feel I have a gained a good handle on the sector in general, how it works and the various pressures surrounding specific roles; as well as the pressures and worries faced by my clients, candidates and wider industry network. However, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the matter, so please feel free to contact me directly (Angus McCormick, ) or leave your comments in the section below.

What am I referring to?

Effectively mental health relates to a person’s social, emotional and psychological well-being and in a statistic from MIND, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. It’s been well documented in recent years that male suicide numbers are not only heavily disproportionate to that of females, but consistently on the rise. My worry here is, whilst the Oil & Gas industry faces heavy cuts to remain operational, what impact will this have mentally, and why?

Why do I think this will cause mental health problems specific to these sectors?

  • Massive uncertainty, from redundancy or worry thereof
  • The predicted trend of difficulty in the Oil & Gas industry
  • Financial insecurity / difficulties caused by lack of income
  • Additional downtime at home combined with these pressures

A spotlight on the Oil and Gas Industry

An industry with many functions spending extended periods of time away from home, be that offshore or commuting to stay in another city / country 5 days a week. On top of that the industry is undeniably male dominated, which as with many others with a similar bias brings the complexities of ‘toxic masculinity’, ‘man up culture’ and the mindset that a man’s problems are his own. The nature of the industry, the way projects ramp up and down, and the deadline orientated mindset breeds pressure and stress, which is fine if things are managed correctly, but if not can cause a massive strain on someone’s mental health.

What impact has the past 5 months had on individuals?

Such a huge number of people have been at home pretty much round the clock, working or not, it is hard to manage mentally for many reasons, be it feeling ‘cooped up’, restricted, having a lack of purpose or routine, lack of social interaction or physical stimulation. This has been hard for everyone but for those already struggling it’s posed an even greater problem. Combine this with the cuts to the Oil & Gas industry, and the increasing number of redundancies, it points towards a real problem.

So where are we now with things?

In the world we live in with ‘cancel culture’, ‘feigned outrage’, and a huge amount of virtue signalling individuals with ulterior motives, I genuinely think that despite the increased media coverage of mental health issues; it is genuinely as hard as ever to talk about your problems. I’ll say that again from experience with people close to me, it’s as hard as every to talk about your problems.

Agree with me on that or not, we can look at why?

I still think there is a huge stigma surrounding opening up about your problems, thanks to the unfortunate way that antidepressant / anti-anxiety medication have become such a prevalent blanket ‘solution’, which for sure helps with the symptomatic problem but doesn’t get to the root cause for anyone.

Speaking with people both struggling or who have struggled, there is a huge fear of having the words ‘Mental Health’ on their medical records transpiring to become a roadblock for future progression, but in reality making things even harder in the short – medium term. For me this points to a lack of perceived available ‘non-medical’ solutions, as well as the slow referral route through the healthcare services, which makes that really brave first step for those struggling even harder to take.

Steps for improvement?

First off, please speak to someone, anyone about what is going on. This really is such an important step and without a doubt anyone would rather have a thousand phone calls than have to go to their friend’s funeral – so again please say something, to someone.

Seeking help, if a friend told you they had spent years in pain and feeling severely physically ill but didn’t want to go to a doctor because they wanted to try and handle things themselves, or didn’t want to bother people with their ailment, what would you say? Exactly.

There are loads of great charities focused on mental health, with niches and individual specialisms but the two keys ones I would share first are MIND and Samaritans .

Show your support

If you would like to show your support for a mental health fundraiser, I have a friend who is taking on an incredible and frankly staggering challenge in September this year where him and a partner aim to run the entire West Coast of Ireland together, 2500km between them over 35 days.