HIMS experiences from around Australia and New Zealand were shared at the recent HIMS Australia Advisory Group annual meeting and seminar in Sydney.
The Human Intervention Motivation Study – or HIMS as most people know it – is the programme that supports aviation professionals with substance dependency.
Chris Mehlhopt, Chairman of HIMS New Zealand, updated the seminar on the work of HIMS New Zealand, which has been running for a little longer than its Australian counterpart.
His presentation covered some of the lessons learned since HIMS began operating, including the need to keep reinforcing key HIMS messages, being proactive with employers and the importance of hitting the ground running if a HIMS programme is to be successful.
Chris, fellow HIMS representative Brian Haybittle (HIMS support pilot and Peer Assistance volunteer) and NZALPA’s Medical and Welfare Director Andy Pender, all attended the Australian event.
Other highlights of the conference included a master class of stakeholders from across the industry – including Greg Hood, Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau; Rob Walker, Group Manager of the Stakeholder Engagement Group at the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority; and Lucinda Gemmell, Chief People and Culture Officer at Virgin Australia.
“These people all shared information about what they are doing for their people and how peer assistance, and specifically HIMS, plays a big part in their safety network for their people,” says Andy Pender. “There were also many lessons there for us in how we operate our Peer Assistance Network (PAN) which supports and assists aviation professionals experiencing compromised mental wellness.”
Andy was also part of a panel exploring union perspectives – where he was alongside counterparts Tom McRoberts of Australian air traffic controller organisation Civil Air; Matt O’Keeffe, Welfare Director at the Australian Federation of Air Pilots; Hugh Windsor, Welfare Liaison Officer at the Australian and International Pilots Association; and Ben Spencer a Manager of the Peer Support Programme at the Association for Virgin Australia Group Pilots.
“The top take outs for me from the whole conference were about collaboration and bringing all stakeholders together for the same message. We had the regulators, the airlines, the companies and the unions understanding what each other does, and working together for the greater good of aviation professionals who are diagnosed with substance dependency.
“It was very inspirational and motivating. It completely lived up to the theme of the conference: Training for trust - respecting risk.”
One of the highlights for Andy was hearing from Todd Wehr, the Executive Manager of the Queensland Ambulance Service Staff Support Services – known as Priority One.
Todd manages the employee assistance program for Queensland Ambulance staff working in acute pre-hospital care, providing dedicated trauma counselling, mental health education and a peer support program. He manages and supervises about 180 peer support officers and 65 internal and external psychologists and counsellors. He also lectures at the Queensland University of Technology on stress, critical incident stress, disaster management, suicide, resilience and self-care.
“Todd provided the major learnings for me from the seminar,” says Andy. “This was an absolute game changer for me in terms of what they do for their people, how long they’ve been doing it and how professional they have become. There is so much we can learn from them, it was just outstanding.
“Priority One just blows all the programmes I know out of the water. There is some amazing work going on all around the place but this was the one that drove home for me how much further we can go in terms of our care for our people and where we can take our programme.”
Andy says there were particular learnings for him in terms of their recurrent training programme, the annual training of their peers, their selection of peers and their ongoing support and welfare mechanisms for their peers once they are volunteering in the programme.
HIMS and the Peer Assistance Network New Zealand have the potential to do so much more in the selection, training and support of their volunteers, according to Andy.
For more information about HIMS, visit http://www.hims.org.nz/
For more information about PAN, visit https://www.pan.org.nz
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