$6M boost for mental health of FIFO workers

It comes as members of the workforce report high levels of distress

$6M boost for mental health of FIFO workers

Workplace-based suicide prevention and early intervention programme MATES in Construction will receive $6 million from the Morrison government to help boost the mental health of remote workers in various sectors.

The support to MATES in Construction will be used to promote the mental health and wellbeing of Fly In, Fly Out (FIFO) and the Drive In, Drive Out (DIDO) workers in the construction, mining, energy, and manufacturing industries.

It comes as 33% of Australian FIFO employees report "high" or "very high" levels of psychological distress, including anxiety and depression, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt. He attributed this to the "great amounts of time" that FIFO and DIDO workers spend away from their loved ones.

"Our government recognises the strain FIFO and DIDO work can cause and we are committed to working with groups like MATES in Construction to ensure these workers have access to the support they need," Hunt said in a statement.

Chris Lockwood, national chief executive officer of MATES, said that the initiative is designed like a "peer support model" to get workers to support each other to reduce the risk of suicide.

"This programme builds on the Government's commitment to work towards zero suicides and reduce suicidal behaviour across the Australian population," explained Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman.

"MATES in Construction will use existing networks and relationships within the construction and mining industries to deliver programmes that benefit workers, leaders, counsellors, and families of FIFO and DIDO workers across Australia," Coleman added.

The programme focuses on industries with a high male presence in them, according to Coleman, as men represent 75% of all suicides.

Read more: Shocking suicide rates plaguing one industry sector

The latest investment underscored the government's plan to make mental health a national priority, as the government's total investment in mental health and suicide prevention services hits $6.5 billion in 2021-22.

"This includes $2.3 billion in the 2021-22 Budget for the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan to lead landmark reform of the mental health system," explained the government.

Those who are experiencing distress can seek advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.

Australians who are also looking for support amid the pandemic can use the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service any time via telephone at 1800 512 348 or online at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au.

Meanwhile, for those who are concerned about suicide, living with someone considering suicide, or bereaved because of suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is open at 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

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