Rockingham counsellor talks about dark side of FIFO life


Counsellor Ellen Carey.       d456723
Counsellor Ellen Carey.       d456723

ROCKINGHAM counsellor Ellen Carey says she is concerned by the number of fly in, fly out (FIFO) workers who are struggling to cope with the stresses of life.

She said a recent spike in FIFO workers, including navy personnel, coming to her for help with their mental health, led to her speaking up to let others know that help was available.

“It’s gotten to me a lot just of late and I thought ‘no, I’m going to try and get this out there’,” she said.

Ms Carey said FIFO workers often had to juggle stressful working arrangements, including a lack of job security.

“I have a couple of blokes that come in here just to dump and talk about the issues at work because they know it’s not going to go outside of these four walls,” she said.

“It’s really hard because at this particular moment, they don’t know if they are going to have a job to go to. It’s like a waiting game.

“One of my clients told me he was in tears in the truck; it was all just too much for him but he couldn’t come down from the truck until he composed himself enough so that no body would notice.”

Robin Paraha, who has FIFO workers in her family, said it opened her eyes to the hardships they faced.

“Having two sons in FIFO work as well as my husband, the biggest issue is fitting back into your family after being away,” she said.

“The wife is mother, father, everything else; even with the phone calls, the Skyping, dad’s not physically there. They (the kids) often take dad to the airport, it’s a bit exciting but once dad’s on that plane and they know he’s going to be away, they straight away change into little monsters for mum.

“They’re like single guys or ladies for two weeks, then they’ve got to fit back into the married scene, take over the responsibility of the family but mum’s already been doing that so it’s really tough to let the reins go.”

Ms Carey said while all healthy relationships required work, the stakes were higher for those who worked away from home for extended periods.

“It’s basically about communicating, talking about the issues that that they have when they’re away so that they can be on the same page,” she said.

“When they come home, they don’t know where they fit in the family any more.

Another issue was money, with the amount of lucrative, highly paid jobs rapidly decreasing.

“They tend to overspend, especially the single guys, and then they are left in all this debt,” she said.

“More often than not, they go out and spend big because they’ve got all this money coming in. There are some partners that want that money to keep coming in.”

Living within their means was something Ms Paraha instilled in her children when they started work in the industry.

“You think it’s (the money) going to last forever but it doesn’t,” she said. “You don’t know what’s around the corner.”

Ms Carey said there was interest around a free pizza night for FIFO workers who were at home and wanted to meet and talk to new people. If you, or someone else you know may be interested, contact Ms Carey on 0439 924 095 or ellen@ellenscounselling.com.au.