Luke Baker has worked in the most remote reaches of Australia and Papua New Guinea, but leaving his family is always a painful rupture. But Facebook is helping in surprising ways.
Now based in Bundaberg, Queensland, he was sent to mining camps as a “fly-in, fly-out” worker (or FIFO), where he’d often spend around three weeks on-site and one week off in an endless, “torturous” cycle. Deciding that writing down his emotions could help, he launched a Facebook page called Fifo Man where he posted thoughts about work, family and wellbeing.
Baker’s page, which now has almost 17,000 followers, is part of network of Facebook pages that are stirring conversations about mental health among men who are not always upfront with their feelings.
FIFO workplaces, where employees often live in isolated, temporary compounds, have been recognised as increasing risk of mental illness.
“When I first started it [the Facebook page] it was just me putting my thoughts and feelings out there,” Baker said. “More and more, messages I got were about guys on-site who had taken their own lives and people that had suffered some depression, and I started to see how bad it really was. “I wanted to break down the stigma around guys’ mental health and encourage them to seek help.”
Dameyon Bonson, a Mangarayi and Torres Strait Islander man based in the Kimberley, has worked extensively on men’s mental health issues. He’s also built an app called YFronts that aims to help men working FIFO jobs with health education. Bonson pushed back on the idea men won’t talk about mental health. “If the environment is suited and is deemed to be safe, then men contribute quite openly and honestly,” he said. “Men are actually really active in this [Facebook] space, but they’re doing it on their terms,” he said, pointing to Fifo Man, but also pages like The OZ Project and A Chance for Change.
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