Peer Support Programs as a win-win for companies and aeromedical professionals

Mr Matthew Okeeffe1

1Australian Federation Of Air Pilots, South Melbourne , Australia

Strong, well-structured peer support programs are essential for companies if they want to care for their staff and see them and their companies thrive. Their needs often can be invisible, given that these professionals are in the business of caring for others and are often reluctant to seek help for themselves when they need it.

These peer support programs provide great opportunities for partnership: staff and management working together to create a culture where seeking help is allowed and encouraged. We can work to end the stigma associated with seeking help, particularly for mental health issues, and provide staff with the support that will allow them to recover from any distress or illness within the best possible time-frame.

We can also work together to contribute to the creation of better policies and regulation within the Industry, humanising the industry so that those who care for others are also cared for.

In this presentation, we will also address some of the practical issues of implementing and running a best-practice peer support program. We consider questions such as: how can we best resource and meet the requirements of a peer support program, taking advantage of in-kind support, including staff time? How can we collectively meet the concerns of peers and management? How can we have proactive approaches to staff wellbeing, rather than just reactive, to prevent adverse outcomes and to address issues before they become major problems and sensational headlines?

In considering these questions, this presentation will explain how the Peer Support model works, and how every person can be involved. It will outline the ways that each person can connect peers or employees requiring assistance with resources and programs to empower them to recover well and contribute to their companies as productive and valued aeromedical professionals.


Matthew is the Welfare Director for the Australian Federation of Airline Pilots, supporting over 5000 Australian pilots from all sectors of Industry. In this role he coordinates the peer support program and is also active as a peer support pilot. In addition, he is a board member of the HIMS Australia Advisory group, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation pathway for pilots.

He is passionate about supporting pilots to come forward to seek help, rather than to hide their illness and working with Industry to make cultural changes that will enable pilots to do this.

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