New HHTS CEO launches mental health plan

Seven months after it launched with a $600,000 kick-start from the federal government, Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds (HHTS) is close to rolling out the industry’s first ‘over-arching’ mental health plan.

New CEO Naomi Frauenfelder told Big Rigs that at the end of March HHTS plans to release a single strategy for the transport and logistics industry, and underneath that will sit guidelines that organisations of all sizes can take on.

“So they can look at what they’re doing and do a bit of gap analysis against what best practice is determined to be,” said Frauenfelder, a former Executive Director at TrackSAFE, a charity set up to prevent suicides and reduce accidents and injuries on the rail network.

“They can then see where they need to fill the gap and where they can be implementing the guidelines across the organisation.”

Frauenfelder said that in conjunction with the release of the HHTS Industry Blueprint Strategy, National Framework, Guidelines and Charter the not-for-profit will also distribute a series of pocket guides for frontline staff.

“Whether you’re a truck driver or a shed worker, it’ll have educational material and helpful tips for looking after yourself, and looking after your own mental health.”

The guidelines will be free to view on the HHTS website, but Frauenfelder said the pocket books are available to members for a “nominal fee”.

“We’re currently working on a membership system that will reveal what can be made to individual truckies for the lowest possible cost.

“We’re not here to make a profit, but we’ve got to be able to cover what we’re investing in terms of developing the resources.”

That spend includes a three-year partnership with AP Psychology & Consulting Services for the development of an “evidence-based framework to inform the design and development of the HHTS initiative into the future to address industry-wide risk factors and structural challenges”.

“APPCS has been on a journey with HHTS for over two years, having been engaged by the HHTS steering committee prior to the launch of the foundation as mental health subject matter experts, and to provide an overview of current approaches to mental health initiatives across the sector,” said Arthur Papagiannis, managing director of the consultancy service.

HHTS has also recently partnered with Griffith University in an 18-month research project funded by the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC) to better understand the effects of mental health and wellbeing, psychosocial factors, distraction and
fatigue and the role these factors play in crashes and injury.

The foundation says the need for a comprehensive investigation into mental health is long overdue with nearly one in two workers experiencing a mental health issue.

Frauenfelder tells Big Rigs that there are also plans for a free industry-specific support line through Lifeline to be staffed by ex-industry workers.

“So that when a driver is out on the road and needs support, they can actually speak to someone who has had the same experiences.”

Fraunfelder said HHTS is also developing a free app with support tools and investigating the feasibility of using a customised truck to better reach those in regional communities.

Bette Phillips-Campbell, team leader at GriefWork-Uniting, a Victoria-based organisation supporting families and drivers, hopes that HHTS also consults those already working on the frontline of mental health.

“We support a number of injured drivers so would like to see them consulting with people working on the ground,” she said.

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