Air New Zealand will soon announce its commitment as a participating organisation in the NZALPA-driven Peer Assistance Network (PAN) programme, says Medical and Welfare Director Herwin Bongers.
The major airline, which employs 835 NZALPA members, is the second airline to officially affiliate with the cause, after Jetconnect, and means that all of their pilots will be able to access PAN if necessary.
Air New Zealand will also have input into the structure of the course and financially contribute to the development of the programme.
NZALPA members behind the development of PAN see Air New Zealand’s commitment as a major step forward for wrap-around care.
“By participating, organisations are providing their workforce insulation and protection around compromised mental health,” Bongers said. “They are also supporting the uptake of the collegial resources pilots, Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) and flight service operators have at their fingertips.”
The PAN was started 18 months ago to provide a confidential service for pilots and ATCs. Volunteer pilots and ATCs have undertaken extensive training to be able to provide support for their peers who are suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, stress or distress over a career or personal event.
“So far, it’s all been about getting the message out there that people can turn to their colleagues as a ‘safe harbour’ for confidential discussion with someone that understands the rigours and pressures of the profession,” Bongers said.
Twenty volunteers have been trained by medical health professional Allan Baker, who is also available for referred assistance.
Bongers said he saw the volunteer network needing to grow in order to keep up with demand if meetings with Airways, Virgin Australia and New Zealand (VANZ) and Massey University School of Aviation went to plan and they too came on board with the programme.
“Having all of the key New Zealand aviation organisations collaborate on such a programme can only have positive outcomes for the pilots, ATCs and flight service operators, and ultimately the safety of the travelling public.”
This year, the value and contribution of volunteers will be recognised at NZALPA’s Annual Conference with the Stewart Cameron Memorial Award, which has been supported by his family.
“Three years ago, the untimely deaths of two experienced air traffic controllers rocked the aviation industry, and made us start to think proactively about protecting the mental health and wellbeing of our pilots and ATCs,” Bongers said.
“It’s important we celebrate the people that make an effort to put their experience and expertise to use, to support their colleagues and stop any further tragedies in our industry.”
NZALPA has approached the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to encourage the creation of guidance material for operators and awaits response from its Board.
PAN representatives also look to collaborate with the team at the Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS) – the independent organisation that runs a programme to help aviation industry workers manage substance use disorders.
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- Contact: 0800 NZALPA ask for Peer Support (available 24/7)
Mark Mehlhopt (NZALPA PAN/CIRP Coordinator) - 027 475 1709
Andy Pender (NZALPA PAN/CIRP Coordinator) - 027 464 4032