This is part two of our mental health series. In part one, we discussed the safety implications of mental health within the workplace, and the impact that a downturn can have on the emotional well-being of employees and employers alike. This week we’re hearing from someone personally impacted by the current economic climate.
When you’ve got a family to support it’s hard to suddenly find yourself without work or income. Unfortunately that’s the reality for many people in Canada’s oil and gas industry right now, and it’s the place where Chad Miller found himself in 2015.
Chad is a self-employed pipeline facility inspector and project manager. In 2014, he had a record year, spending about 333 days working away from home. This is how he describes what happened next:
In 2015, I knew things were going to be different. At first I thought, ‘well that’s okay, it’ll be nice to spend some time with my family’. My third child, a baby girl, was born March 12th and I was able to be home. But during the last 18 months I’ve only worked 40 days in the oilfields.
A stressful situation for a father of three children, including a newborn! Like so many others, Chad has struggled with depression and anxiety, racking his brain for a way to survive this downturn. “During the recession of 2008/09,” he said, “I went back to school to upgrade what I call my ‘internal software’. I went back and got my pipefitter ticket and upgraded some courses, so I was able to capitalize on the downturn and make sure I was better off for the next time it happened.”
Considering a new direction
This time around he’s been wondering whether he should consider a change of profession, perhaps to sprinkler fitter. He’s also been taking some courses on geothermal installation.
But then one day it occurred to Chad that he couldn’t be the only one sitting around doing nothing, and he decided to start a Facebook page called Oilfield Dads, as well as a Facebook group. “It’s an outlet for people to come and share their stories, and talk about their hardships or what they’ve been doing to change their situation,” explained Chad. “Strictly positive reinforcement – no political bashing or disrespect.”
Within a few weeks, Oilfield Dads had taken on a life of its own. The Facebook page now has over 5,000 likes, and the group has over 8,000 members.
Helping others move forward
But Chad still felt he could be doing more, so he started an Oilfield Dads website. Here he helps people with training programs, resume building, video resumes, job postings and more.
Last summer, Chad also realized that the website could help others build new businesses. “I was talking to a rig consultant who had started building picnic tables,” he said. “He was posting on Kijiji and he sold a few in the first week, but with Kijiji you have to keep reposting. I thought, what better way to help a lot of these people who are out of work to transition a hobby into a new career – whether it’s building furniture out of a garage, backyard mechanic or handyman. I want to give people the opportunity to promote themselves and put it on my website. That rig consultant is now so busy that he’s considering renting a bay just to keep up.”
Chad’s is just one story of the resilience and creativity being demonstrated by people in our industry during these difficult times, and we think it’s a great story of community spirit and the desire to help one another.
Stay tuned for next week when we’ll discuss in more detail the opportunities for retraining or transferring skills during a downturn.