Recognising headspace and IFAP’s work in mental health

Published on Mon 23 October 2017 10:42pm

Mr Wilson (10:42am) — Mental Health Week, which took place earlier this month, was an opportunity to acknowledge the prevalence and relative normality of mental ill health; to recognise that all of us will have friends, family and colleagues who at times struggle to cope with life and work and may keep that to themselves because there is still an unhelpful and unnecessary stigma attached to being mentally unwell.

That’s one of the reasons Mental Health Week is important. It is a reminder to focus on education, awareness and advocacy and a reminder to look after ourselves and one another and be informed about the treatment and support options that are available.

During Mental Health Week I was glad to visit two organisations in my electorate that are working to prevent and address mental ill health. I was very glad to speak at an event held by IFAP, the Industrial Foundation for Accident Prevention, which operates both an offshore and maritime training centre and a workplace safety training centre. IFAP works on the basis that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that’s reflected in its training. Naturally, the main driver of this approach is the need to protect and help people who experience, or are at risk of experiencing, mental illness. Research highlighted by the Human Rights Commission indicates that job stress and other related psychosocial factors are emerging as leading contributors to the wider burden of occupational ill health. A total of 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress, and Australian businesses lose around $6.5 billion each year. That could be reduced through early intervention and better treatment for employees who are at risk. I’m glad that IFAP is supporting employers and employees alike in the shared cause of ensuring that protecting good mental health is part of a safe and healthy workplace.

Also in the course of Mental Health Week I attended headspace in Fremantle, and I want to acknowledge Annabeth Bateman and her colleagues for the work that she and all the people in the headspace crew are doing to make their centre connected to our community. As members will know, headspace centres form a network across Australia and give young Australians somewhere to turn when they experience distress, panic attacks or unshakeable sadness. All those who took part in headspace events around the country were encouraged to identify one of the things that helps them feel better at times of anxiety or depression. I know for me it’s swimming in the ocean. For others it’s music, going for a walk or talking with friends. Mike Anderson, a young man I’ve known for a number of years as a local Labor activist, spoke about his experience with poor mental health through high school, highlighting the refuge, advice and affirmation that headspace provided. He’s now part of their youth reference group. We have to go further in Australia to address and destigmatise mental illness. I’m grateful that a training organisation like IFAP is equipping workplaces and workers to be more resilient and responsive and that headspace is continuing to help young people navigate what can be dark and lonely waters.

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