On the road for mental health

Strengthening mental health among Fly-in-Fly-Out workers has been the aim of Hedland staff visiting remote locations and within the town.

Reducing anxiety and depression was discussed at three sessions requested by the McAleese Group, whose business includes operating road trains in mining areas.

Manager at Hedland Cecilia Brownhill said she and staff from Acacia Support Services have visited Mt Dove and Abydos, both more than an hour’s drive from Hedland, and Wedgefield, a resource centre between South Hedland and Port Hedland.

“All three presentations went well,” she said. 

“In each case the female staff participated keenly, as did some of the men – particularly older ones.

“They work four weeks on and two off – a long time away from family and social connections. We paid extra attention to the matter of families feeling disconnected. How do they cope with issues such as nearly non-existent mobile phone service? The lack of answers from the staff on that point made us feel we really do need to help them build up coping strategies and awareness of how to have mental well-being in their jobs.”

At Mt Dove and Abydos the participants were drivers of road trains. Most of the Wedgefield group were mechanics who maintain the trucks.

“After showing our power point presentation Simonetta gave out fact sheets and community pamphlets. The company had asked us for this service after discussion about beyond blue, which offers help for people with depression. At the end of one session a man came up to me to say he had not been doing too well.

“Simonetta’s work for Acacia includes crisis intervention, attending at the police station and Hedland Health Campus. She can advocate for clients and ensure they are aware of their rights.

“Another discussion point for the McAleese groups was the availability of e-books the men can listen to while driving. They could listen to music or stories, for example.

“I was delighted to be called by the company’s program manager, saying he was pleased with the presentations.

“McAleese is the first company, as far as I’m aware, that has taken this program seriously. They have not only offered it to all staff but are following up by asking supervisors and team leaders to attend training on the Accidental Counsellor program, similar to the one RA runs. This would mean support workers in the field being able to support FIFO staff. The role of Accidental Counsellor involves listening to colleagues who could use help, and offering constructive suggestions.”

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