‘steering Healthy Minds’ mental health project launch for transport workers

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

The ‘Steering Healthy Minds’ programme aims to train truck drivers, bus drivers and other transport workers to support each other in order to tackle chronic mental health in the industry. Speakers on today’s online launch will include the QLD Transport Minister Mark Bailey; Trevor Birks transport worker; Millin Curtis, Toll chaplain; Matt Campbell, South East Queensland general manager of Kinetic buses; Peter Biagini TWU QLD Branch Secretary; Prof Daryll Hull of Macquarie University and chair of Teacho; National Heavy Vehicle Regulator CEO Sal Petroccitto; and Queensland Transport Association’s Lisa Fraser.

The training programme 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 including at Toll and Startrack on the Goldcoast and at Surfside Buslines with the plan to push out three projects in each state and territory over the next three years.

The programme 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.

Factors contributing to the high incidence of mental health problems among transport workers include long hours away from family, financial pressure, stress, social isolation and the high incidence of death and injury. Yesterday new statistics from Safe Work Australia show a jump in the number of transport workers killed at work to 58 in 2019, by far the largest category of workers killed out of a total of 183 workers killed. In 2018, 38 transport workers were killed at work.

Peter Biagini, TWU Queensland Branch Secretary said the aim of the “Steering Healthy Minds” project 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. 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 starting to get them the help they need, when they need it,” he said.

Prof Daryll Hull of Macquarie University and chair of Teacho, said the potential for making change in the lives of transport workers was great.

“We have managed through three successful pilot projects to train workers who can now help their work colleagues in difficult times. 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.

The programme will be launched today by funders and supporters: the TWU, National; Heavy Vehicle Regulator, Queensland Transport Association, Teacho, TWUSuper, Queensland Council of Unions, Work Cover Queensland and Toll.

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