FIFO family heartache

David SalvaireSound Telegraph
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When Rockingham resident Sharon Johnson lost her husband, she was left wondering what could have been done to save him.

Anthony Johnson, known to his friends and workmates as “AJ”, was a fly-in, fly-out construction worker when he took his own life in August 2015 — the night before he was due to fly out.

His heavy workload of four weeks on, one week off, left him anxious and depressed, according to Ms Johnson, and he was taking medication and drinking regularly.

Ms Johnson said she was shocked and devastated when she found him lying in the backyard of their family home and was left questioning what could have driven him to take his own life, leaving behind two young daughters.

“We’d discussed suicide before and he thought it was the worst thing to do, so for him to go that far shows he must have felt absolutely helpless or he wasn’t in his right mind,” she said.

“These men are brought up to believe they shouldn’t talk about their feelings and everyone on the outside thought Anthony was living the dream ... but his work life was crushing him.”

Since Mr Johnson’s death, Mrs Johnson said she had been inundated with messages from FIFO workers and their families who were “desperate” to talk about the damaging lifestyle, but felt they could not speak up.

“There’s a massive crisis out there that no one wants to recognise and if these guys put their hand up and say something, they lose their jobs,” she said. “Sometimes the guys don’t even realise they have a problem in the first place before it’s too late.”

“When they start working in the industry they need to be better prepared for what they’re about to go through.

“They’re thrown in the deep with no exit strategy and after a while they get a tap on the shoulder telling them it’s over, then they panic.”

Ms Johnson has organised benefit shows to raise funds for widows of suicide.

She has also raised more than $10,000 through her Smash the Stigma campaign but says more needs to be done to save the lives of FIFO workers.

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