Steering Healthy Minds project readies for launch

Mental health training program for transport workers kicks off tomorrow

Steering Healthy Minds project readies for launch
Peter Biagini


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

The ‘Steering Healthy Minds’ program aims to arm truck drivers, bus drivers and other transport workers with the skills to support each other in order to tackle chronic mental health in the industry.

The program will be officially launched by its funders and supporters: the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), Queensland Transport Association (QTA), 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 including at Toll and 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 program is timely with a major study by Monash University into the health of truck drivers soon to be published showing 50 per cent of drivers surveyed experienced some form of psychological distress, the TWU notes.

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.

Read how the project attracted federal funding, here

TWU Queensland branch secretary Peter Biagini says the aim of Steering Healthy Minds is 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," Biagini says.

"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," he said.

Professor Daryll Hull of Macquarie University and chair of Teacho says 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," Hull adds.

"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."

More information on the Steering Health Minds project can be found here.

The launch can be followed on the TWU Facebook Page: @TWUAus

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