Mental Health Workshop Sets a Baseline for Remedial Action

In light of evidence that more and more commercial fishers are suffering from poor mental health, an important remedial step is a baseline of current knowledge and identification of information gaps and needs. This was the key goal of an FRDC funded one-day workshop that was held last month in Adelaide.

The workshop was attended by 25 individuals with close ties to the fishing industry and/or significant expertise in mental health and safety. A number of presentations served to provide an important basis for discussion, including status reports by Deakin University and KAL Analysis into the mental health and wellbeing of fishers, and TSIC’s Staying Afloat campaign to promote and raise awareness in mental health. Presentations were also made by the Women’s Industry Network Seafood Community, AMSA, Safe Work Australia, and NGO’s with a history working in mental health such as Beyond Blue. These presentations provided a wide-ranging understanding of the initiatives, challenges, and needs in mental health support for the fishing industry. The workshop also provided an opportunity to learn how mental health is being addressed by the Royal Flying Doctor Service and others, and how projects such as SeSAFE, which is improving safety awareness and training in the fishing industry, can be leveraged to inform and assist those suffering from poor mental health.

Several key points emerged from the workshop, including:

  • There is a higher prevalence of poor mental health in the fishing industry than is widely appreciated or understood;
  • Available mental health resources are underutilised by fishers, for a variety of reasons, including challenges of access, timing, and perceived relevance of resources;
  • Individuals from industry bodies are sometimes contacted by fishers in times of need, but lack the training necessary to provide optimal mental health support, despite their best efforts;
  • There is a perception in the industry that mental health experts do not understand commercial fishing, and therefore lack the ability to provide tailored support to fishers.

In coming weeks, a summary of the workshop will be available including statements and recommendations for future work.  While identification of information gaps has now been achieved, a next step is to develop effective resources for fishers, and this will be a focus of future efforts targeting the incidence of poor mental health in the fishing industry.

Steve Eayrs. SeSAFE project PI.