31 October 2023
Air Force personnel in Derby, Western Australia worked with local communities to highlight mental health through art recently.
As Air Force Safety Month draws to a close, personnel recognised that mental health is integral to ensuring the overall safety and effectiveness of the service and the communities it serves.
Personnel from across Australia yarned with traditional owners and school students about mental health and painted a tree blue as part of the Blue Tree Project.
The Blue Tree Project seeks to change the way people speak about mental health, by sparking difficult conversations and encouraging people to speak up when battling mental health concerns.
By spreading the paint and yarning, aviators and Aboriginal health workers committed to help break down stigma attached to mental health.
Group Captain Glen Storrar, Officer Commanding the Health Services Wing, participated in the tree painting and acknowledged the role of mental health in maintaining a safe and effective workforce.
“The mental health and wellbeing of our workforce is critical to maintaining Defence capability and safe and effective Air Force workplaces,” Group Captain Storrar said.
“Maintaining good mental health supports our overall physical health, our ability to deal with the daily challenges of service life and our readiness to operate in potentially uncertain environments.
“We all have a role to play in looking after our fellow aviators and to encourage them to seek help if and when they need it.”
At a special event focused on mental health, Air Force personnel learned that remote communities and Indigenous Australians grapple with distinctive mental health challenges.
The Department of Health considers mental health is responsible for 10 per cent of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Australians can experience a higher incidence of mental health conditions, substance abuse and suicide.
While reported prevalence of mental illness in rural and remote Australia is similar to that of major cities, access to mental health services is substantially more limited than in major cities and rates of self-harm increase with remoteness.
Mental health, just like physical health, is an important part of work health and safety.
Defence is focused on discussing mental health and wellbeing to help reduce the stigma and encourage people to seek support when needed.
“It truly is OK to not be OK and reach out for help,” Group Captain Storrar said.
“Mental health support is readily available for our aviators, family or community members that need help, or some simple resources, to improve their mental health and overall wellbeing.”
Mentally healthy workplaces can provide workers with benefits like confidence, belonging, financial security, a sense of purpose, achievement and social connections and networks.
ADF members and their families can access resources to help manage their mental health.
More information is available on the Blue Tree Project.