The family of a fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) worker who committed suicide has backed calls for an inquiry into a spate of suicides involving workers on resources projects in Western Australia's Pilbara region.
In the past 12 months, nine workers have taken their own lives while living away from home and the West Australian Government is considering a parliamentary inquiry.
The most recent death was earlier this month on the Barrow Island gas project.
The Pilbara district coroner has already referred the deaths to the West Australian state coroner for a broader inquest.
Mining supervisor Steven Migas, 36, took his own life last November.
He was a supervisor for a sub-contractor drainage company working on a Fortescue Metals Group project near South Headland.
His roster was three weeks on, one week off.
Mr Migas' brother John says Steven had no known history of mental illness, so his death, just four days after he had lunch with him at Perth airport, was a shock.
"We had a good chat," he told 7.30.
"He talked about hosting Christmas for the family, he was excited about it, he had a new place, even to the stage that I know his partner had found presents hidden around the house that he was going to wrap when he got home.
"So it wasn't for one second that I thought that would be the last time I'd see him."'Something needs to happen now'
Steven's uncle, Ted Migas, told 7.30 that his nephew had a lot of responsibility in his supervising role and not until after his death did they know about stress he faced in his work.
"He had possibly 20 or 30 guys working for him," he said.
"At certain times, each would come with their own problems, and Steve would be the one [they talked to]. But who did Steve have to go [talk] with?
"When he got back [home], you'd ask 'how was your swing' and there was a shrug of the shoulders, 'not home long enough'.
"I think every FIFO guy speaks like that."
The family want an investigation into the FIFO suicides and the impact of stress on the job.
"There is already enough evidence with the statistics to say that, I mean, with nine in the last year and there being 50,000 people up there, that's twice the suicide rate of the national rate," John Migas said.
"I think something needs to happen now, with the inquest as well, before more families have to suffer.
"It's too late for us, we've already lost our brother, we aren't getting anything out of this, we just want other families not to go through what we have gone through, and that's it."JP signs 'two or three' divorce papers a week
Karratha Councillor Fiona White-Hartig says as a justice of the peace in her Pilbara community, she sees the social cost of workers living for away from home for long periods.
"I would sign two, possibly three, divorce papers a week," she told 7.30.
"Most people who come to see me to get papers signed are Queensland-based workers who work FIFO in the Pilbara."
The Australian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health has recently completed a Minds in Mines on-site survey including interviews with more than 1,000 workers on remote mining sites.
Dr Jennifer Bowers led the research project and says the prevalence of mental distress in the FIFO sector ranges between one in every four to one in every three workers, compared to a national average of one in five.
"It comes out that the stresses they face, in terms of pressures at work, performance pressures placed on them by management, contracts that they have to adhere to," she said.
"It's also to do with their relationships with their workmates on site, and those sorts of things, equally to do with the well-known issues of the length of their swing and their rosters.
"So they are all well-known factors, but what is not well-known is how significant that is, and I think we've done that for the first time."Stress 'exacerbated by isolation'
Bruce Campbell-Fraser from the Chamber of Minerals and Energy says the over-representation of men in suicide statistics sadly reflect what is happening in society, particularly in regional Australia.
"I certainly think that the nature of our workforce, operating in regional Australia and predominantly male, make us probably over-represented in those statistics," he said.
"It's fair to say the stresses placed on a FIFO workforce are different than a different type of work arrangement, not saying they are greater, but they are certainly different, and they are exacerbated by those facts of isolation."
West Australian coroner Ros Fogliani has not yet made a decision on whether a coronial inquest into the deaths will go ahead.
But several families who have spoken to 7.30 say they will not have closure until there is a final police report or an inquest completed.
In a statement to 7.30, the state's Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said:
"The Premier and myself have both publicly stated that the Government is currently considering the motion to look into the nine reported, but as yet to be confirmed, FIFO suicides and will make a decision in the coming week.
"Most deaths by suicide are among people of working age. The incidence of suicide is highest in the young male population (15 - 44 years old), however the proportion of suicides that are work-related is unclear.
"It is important that a review is undertaken to understand the circumstances of the recent reported FIFO deaths, their link to FIFO work and what we can learn from these cases to inform and improve early intervention and support for FIFO workers and their families.
"A senior clinician will undertake that review on behalf of the Mental Health Commission."_People seeking support and information about suicide can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14._*