Union pressure sees funding finally unlocked to address mental health in FIFO workers!

Thanks to the pressure from the ETU, the federal government finally unlocked $6M of funding in April to address mental health concerns among fly in fly out (FIFO) workers around Australia.

FIFO workers have higher than average rates of anxiety and depression, suffer higher rates of suicidal intent and are more likely to have poor mental health in general. Sadly, this is unsurprising given the extreme work environments, harsh rosters, and routinely uncaring and ignorant approach of management.

The funding will go towards MATES in Construction, who will use the money to expand and increase resourcing to their programs, putting more boots on the ground and building a larger network of trained volunteers that are essential to the program. They will be able to get to more sites and have a wider impact through this funding.

MATES provides suicide prevention through community development programs on sites, and by supporting workers in need through case management and a 24/7 help line (1300 642 111). They serve the construction industry in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, the Energy industry in Queensland and New South Wales, and nationally the Mining industry.

CEO of MATES Australia, Construction, Mining and Energy Chris Lockwood is thankful for the support of unions, workers, employers and employer bodies as key to both the success of the MATES program and to winning this grant.

“MATES only works with the support of the whole industry, when workers, unions, employers and employer bodies work together. The cooperation of all these groups is essential to create a sense of trust and assurance to workers that this is a research backed program, committed to delivering real support on the ground,” he said.

It’s not a top-down approach, it’s a program that is delivered from the ground up with workers at the heart of it. It’s a game changer for our industries, not a tick-a-box program, and it’s reaping positive results. We’ve reduced suicide in our industries by about 8- 10% since MATES launched in 2008 and with the support of all of industry, we will continue to make an impact on reducing suicide rates.”

The stats:

  • We lose around 200 workers a year to suicide
  • That’s one worker every second day
  • The impact of a single suicide is said to reach around 135 people (conservatively)
  • Our workers are 6 times more likely to die by suicide than a workplace accident
  • 30% of our apprentices have thought about suicide in the last 12 months

MATES is currently growing their footprint into Energy and Mining too. Lockwood encourages any workers who recognise the need for the MATES program in their workplace or site to raise it with their employers and unions as a starting point to get the ball rolling.

Lockwood said, “Suicide is a preventable problem and when our workers have the skills they need to recognise the signs that someone they work with might be struggling with life, listen to them and connect them to help, we will save lives and drive down these unacceptable statistics.”

Do you need to talk to someone now?

Don’t go it alone. Please reach out for help.

MATES Helpline on 1300 642 111 (available 24/7)

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au

Beyond Blue’s coronavirus support service: 1800 512 348 or coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or kidshelpline.com.au

Headspace: 1800 650 890 or headspace.org.au

Read more ETU news…

This article was publised on 30 May 2022.