Mental Health

Mental health is one of SIA’s main priorities.

Not all fishers are okay – and that’s not okay.

As part of SIA’s 2019 Federal Election package we successfully lobbied the Federal Government to provide funding for an industry-specific mental health pilot program, as provided many other sectors including land-based farmers, mining and construction industries.    

SIA’ Stay Afloat program will be piloted in three industry identified focus communities – Lakes Entrance, Victoria, Newcastle, New South Wales and Darwin, Northern Territory – and has been designed to help break the stigma associated with poor mental health, and to connect industry with existing services and supports. 

In its pilot phase, the program focuses on training trusted industry members as mental health advocates, engaging industry to discuss and understand mental health, and educating primary healthcare networks about the unique pressures and stresses facing the commercial fishing industry. 

The program has a three-phased approach:

  1. Three trusted advocates will be identified to receive mental health first aid training and resources to act as mental health support coordinators on the ground. These advocates will be engaged to discuss mental health and the unique challenges facing commercial fishers with industry, primary healthcare networks and community leaders.
  2. Mental health first aid training for national industry leaders.
  3. A series of Community Resilience Grants will be available to provide funding for industry events to be held where mental health information is available, or a speaker talks about their lived experience.

For more information on SIA’s mental health pilot program please contact Program Manager Jo Marshall via [email protected] or 0408 008 344.

If you, or someone you know, needs help or support please call:
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 463
  • Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800
  • MensLine -1300 78 99 78 
  • If there is immediate danger please call 000 or visit your nearest hospital emergency department.
SIA’s national mental health pilot program is funded under the Australian Government’s Mental Health Program, and managed in consultation with a steering committee including Deakin University’s National Centre for Farmer Health research fellow and Primary Producer Knowledge Network lead investigator Dr Allison Kennedy, Deakin University’s Sustainable Fishing Families co-investigator and Sea Change Consulting director Dr Kirsten Abernethy, and Women in Seafood Australasia Victoria Director and Melbourne Seafood Centre CEO Barbara Konstas. 
Talking about mental health is not always the easiest conversation to have, but now more than ever it is the most important conversation to have.

Mental Health fast facts

  • According to research*, Australia’s commercial fishers are suffering from twice the level of psychological stress than the general population.
    • Dr Tanya King, Maritime Anthropologist, Deakin University 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.
    • Dr King’s 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.
  • 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.

*Research led by Dr Tanya King, Maritime Anthropologist, Deakin University.

The Seafood Industry Mental Health Supports Trial, being undertaken by Seafood Industry Australia, is supported by funding from the Australian Government’s Mental Health Program.

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