Mental health before money

A former FIFO worker who lives in WA is using a podcast and free information summits to combat mental health stigma in Australian workplaces.

Open Up Podcast hosted the FIFO Mental Health summit in Perth today on World Mental Health day, with multiple FIFO industry leaders and mental health experts attending.

Founder of Open Up Lachlan Samuel is a former FIFO worker who struggled with the strain of working away from home and battled with depression for most of his working life.

He says the summit today had no entry fee, which is not normal for similar events in the industry.

“All we’ll be doing is relying on sponsorship to cover costs, and for us it’s not about making money it’s about positively impacting people,” he says.

The summit was free to enter. Photo: Tom Robinson.
Many industry leaders attended the event. Photo: Tom Robinson.

Mr Samuel says he started the podcast in 2017 and it has provided him with opportunities to spread mental health awareness among Australian workers.

“I started it for people who were suffering in isolation like me, and then it sort of just spawned into this,” he says.

“I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of Lifeline, and go onto sites and speak with mining companies and that’s just I guess spawned this summit.”

He says changing the stigma associated with mental health in FIFO workplaces is vital to improve the standards of the industry.

“It’s definitely the culture and not being able to talk about what it is that you’re thinking or feeling especially if you’re suffering,” he says.

“It’s hard to speak up because you’re going to be seen as weak and you’re probably going to be taken advantage of.”

Australian mental health statistics according to Open Up. Graphic: Tom Robinson.

Jamieson Mitchell-Smith is a FIFO worker who works for a mining company he chooses not to name.

He says many of his colleagues struggle with mental health challenges which come with the nature of the job.

“FIFO takes a strain not only on the worker, but the work life, his life at home … loneliness tends to be the biggest killer.”

He says while support services are available, not enough is done to identify workers who are struggling in the first place.

“They only offer the services, they don’t pick up on these issues as most people don’t actually talk about their issues or what’s going on,” he says.

“A lot of the guys can put on brave faces throughout the day and tend to lose themselves when they get back to their room.”

Open Up hope to take their summits nationwide. Photo: Tom Robinson.

Mr Samuel says helping FIFO workers realise they have a problem will encourage them to seek help and reduce stigma.

“It all comes back to self awareness and every single one of our FIFO workers understanding who they are … and then understanding why you’re behaving, thinking, feeling the way you are.”

Mr Mitchell-Smith says free information summits are a positive move, and the sort of event he would be interested in attending.

Categories: General, Mental Health

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