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Lakes Entrance has been chosen as one of three locations in Australia to host a specialised mental health program for the commercial fishing industry.

Stay Afloat Australia will have three advocates available to provide professional mental health support.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said commercial fishers in Gippsland faced unique challenges after a tumultuous year with the impacts of the bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic.

“This year has been a challenging one for our commercial fishers,” Mr Chester said. “It is important we break down the stigma surrounding mental health so those in the industry can get the help they need.

“This program will connect fishers with the support, resources and guidance to work through any issues that may arise.”

Mr Chester said the industry advocates had received mental health first aid training and would now act as mental health support coordinators.

“These advocates provide fishers with a direct point of contact that is local and accessible,” Mr Chester said.

“Arthur Allen, Samantha Mahlook and Chris Newman are the trusted advocates for our region and will provide information and referrals to nearby support services and coordinate activities to build awareness and reduce the stigma around mental health.

“We cannot underestimate the impact the bushfires and pandemic is having on our fishing sector and access to professional mental health support is an essential component of recovery.”

The Federal Government has committed $600,000 for Seafood Industry Australia to deliver the program in fishing communities including Lakes Entrance, Newcastle and Darwin.

For further information and to contact the advocates visit: www.stayafloat.com.au

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