With World Mental Health Day approaching this Saturday, we thought this was the perfect time to discuss the importance of mental health for fly in fly out workers. Of course, mental health is important for all of us, FIFO or not, however people that work away from home can be more at risk than others, facing feelings of isolation, loneliness, and stress. A 2018 study of WA FIFO workers showed that a third of them faced serious mental health challenges.

Mental health can often be viewed as a “taboo” subject, creating barriers and fear around opening communication channels to have those (sometimes tough) conversations. This is something Co Gear is passionate about breaking down in the workplace and community, along with external factors such as discrimination and workplace bullying.

Myth – mental health is the same as mental illness. This is not true! We all have mental health to look after and it can range from being excellent to poor. Mental illness is the diagnosis of a mental health problem you may be facing, a problem all of us could be susceptible to in our lifetime. Mental illness does not discriminate.

FIFO workers are incredible at what they do, and before long can fall into a routine of work, eat and sleep on their swings. They can be away for 1, 2, 3 weeks or longer at a time, working long days from sun up until sun down. Whilst resilient and hardworking, they can also be faced with a mental health crisis waiting to happen when they don’t prioritize their overall wellbeing. Thankfully the fight to end the stigma around mental health continues and the issues surrounding FIFO workers are getting more and more exposure. The first ever Code of Practice for FIFO work was released in 2019 by the WA Government, focusing on how to create a mentally healthy workplace and the risk management process that should be taken. A win for all our distance workers!

Have you noticed any changes within yourself, family members or friends lately? With our lack of control over world events at the moment, it’s been a particularly stressful time everyone. Instead of looking at the external factors we can’t change, let’s see what positive reinforcements can be made within our own lives. There are signs to look for in yourself and others when under psychological stress or fatigue. These could include but are not limited to

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation/ irritability
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Being withdrawn
  • Breathing issues
  • Obsessive thinking

Beyond Blue has some amazing resources and a handy checklist of questions to ask yourself if you’re unsure.

Recognize the signs and remember that it’s not weak to speak. It’s not always comfortable talking to someone you know which is why we’re so lucky to have so many available resources at our fingertips! The more we treat mental health as “the norm”, the more opportunities are presented to our workplaces to step up and give the support that’s needed. From one team of human beings to another, look after yourselves!

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