Mental health awareness program trialled at airport
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.