Seafood Industry Australia and Women in Seafood Australasia have been leading a campaign to help address a key area of concern for the seafood industry by raising awareness and securing funding for mental health support for our fishers. According to research led by Dr Tanya King, Maritime Anthropologist, Deakin University, Australia’s commercial fishers are suffering from twice the level of psychological stress than any other sector.
Dr Tanya King studied the high rate of mental health problems among Australia’s fishers and found chronic job insecurity has led to high rates of suicide among fishers. The research showed levels of “high” and “very high” psychological distress among fishers, which are almost double those reported by the general public. Industry workers feel their work is “culturally undervalued” or misunderstood. With almost a third of industry dissuaded from addressing their physical and mental health problems because they feel their GP doesn’t understand the pressures of the fishing industry.
Significant contributing factors to these mental health problems are ongoing attacks against the industry’s well-managed fisheries and the continued threat to resource access. Despite facing similar mental health issues to other agricultural sectors, fishers across mainland Australia do not currently have access to a formal support network that can connect them with existing services and programs to improve their wellbeing.The Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council (TSIC) has launched project Stay Afloat, providing fisher-friendly mental health support network. SFM would like to see this kind of model extended to all states and territories. Like land-based farmers, fishers are a proud and stoic bunch who can struggle to admit when they may need to reach out for help. As an industry we need people who are trained to look out for warning signs and know how to approach a conversation with someone regarding their mental health.
The re-elected Morrison Government committed to invest $600,000 over two years to support a trial of a mental health trusted advocate program for the fisheries sector. Up to 10 advocates will be established in eight communities across the country. Advocates will be supported with training in mental health first aid or counselling to assist them in their role. This will provide soft entry points to mental health services to reduce barriers and stigma. They will be the linkage between fishers and the wider mental health support network.
If you, or someone you know, is seeking crisis support please call:
- Lifeline– 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue – 1300 22 463
- Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800