Men­tal health aware­ness pro­gram tri­alled at air­port

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - MANDY SQUIRES

TRAV­ELLERS with autism, de­men­tia, PTSD, anx­i­ety and other men­tal ill­nesses will have their path smoothed through one of Aus­tralia’s busiest air­ports, thanks to a new sys­tem that is de­signed to re­duce pres­sures for peo­ple with “hid­den dis­abil­i­ties”.

In a model which, if suc­cess­ful, could be rolled out across the rest of the coun­try, a lan­yard sys­tem will dis­creetly iden­tify peo­ple with spe­cial needs to staff to en­sure they are looked out for — and looked af­ter.

Mel­bourne Air­port avi­a­tion chief An­drew Gar­diner said more than 18 per cent of Aus­tralians lived with a dis­abil­ity but just 4 per cent cent used wheelchair­s or mo­bil­ity aids, mean­ing most dis­abil­i­ties were not vis­i­ble to oth­ers.

Stress­ful places at the best of times, air­ports could present a mine­field of chal­lenges for some peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties and men­tal health con­di­tions, with check-in, se­cu­rity and walk­ing through duty-free all po­ten­tially prob­lem ar­eas.

But the hid­den dis­abil­i­ties pro­gram, the first of its kind for an Aus­tralian air­port, alerts air­port staff to trav­ellers need­ing ex­tra as­sis­tance in the air­port’s ter­mi­nals.

The in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies or car­ers could also ac­cess step-bystep guides, in­for­ma­tion and ad­vice through the Mel­bourne Air­port web­site which helped them bet­ter nav­i­gate the air­port and avoid or min­imise time spent in high-stress ar­eas.

“We feel this pro­gram could make a real dif­fer­ence to pas­sen­gers, es­pe­cially those with young chil­dren, and could open up travel op­por­tu­ni­ties for those that found it too over­whelm­ing in the past,” Mr Gar­diner said.

Mel­bourne Air­port.

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