Mental health training program for transport industry launches

A program to train thousands of transport workers to support colleagues with mental health problems will be rolled out nationally after a successful pilot project.

Steering Healthy Minds – funded by $250,000 from the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative – aims to train truck drivers, bus drivers and other transport workers to support each other.

The program will be launched tomorrow by funders and supporters: the TWU, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, Queensland Transport Association, TEACHO, TWUSuper, Queensland Council of Unions, Work Cover Queensland and Toll.

The training involves encouraging work colleagues to discuss mental health issues or concerns and giving them the information and support they need.

Three pilot projects have begun at Toll, StarTrack on the Gold Coast and at Surfside Buslines with the plan to push out three projects in each state and territory over the next three years.

The TWU said the program is timely with a major study by Monash University into the health of truck drivers soon to be published showing 50% of drivers surveyed experienced some form of psychological distress.

The study shows particular problems for younger drivers, with the percentage of drivers under the age of 35 experiencing severe psychological distress being almost double the national average for males of the same age.

Peter Biagini, TWU Queensland Branch Secretary, said the aim of Steering Healthy Minds was to give transport workers the help they need in the workplace from the people who know them best.

“Many transport workers spend long hours on the road, away from their families, working in a highly stressful industry where death and injury are common,” said Biagini.

“Many experience mental health problems but they don’t know who to turn to and their mates are often powerless to help them. By training up their work mates and giving them peer-to-peer support we hope address the needs of transport workers in getting them the help they need, when they need it.”

Prof Daryll Hull of Macquarie University and chair of Transport Education Audit Compliance Health Organisation (TEACHO), said the potential for making change in the lives of transport workers was great.

“This is a very practical initiative to address a real problem in the transport industry, where mental health problems go undiagnosed and people feel unwilling to sit down with strangers and discuss their problems,” he said.

Click here for more information on the Steering Health Minds project, or search for in your browser.

You can view the launch live on the TWU Facebook Page – @TWUAus – which begins at 1pm in Queensland and 2pm in Sydney/Melbourne.

Speakers at the launch include the Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey; Trevor Birks, transport worker; Millin Curtis, Toll chaplain; Matt Campbell, South East Queensland general manager of Kinetic buses; and Peter Biagini TWU QLD Branch Secretary; National Heavy Vehicle Regulator CEO Sal Petroccitto; and Queensland Transport Association’s Lisa Fraser.

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