Country Fire Service and State Emergency Service volunteers from across the state can play their part in helping finetune mental health support for emergency workers.
Mental health charity beyondblue and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC are working on a nationwide research project into the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services, which will include input from 20,000 present and former personnel.
beyondblue workplace research and resources head Nick Arvantis said this was the first time a project like this had been conducted on a national scale.
He said these workplaces and organisations had high levels of exposure to traumatic conditions and anecdotally this could lead to concerns with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, but the goal of the study was to collect actual data.
The charity’s chief executive officer Georgie Harman said the only existing national statistic on the topic was that 110 Australian police and emergency workers had taken their own lives between 2010 and 2012.
Mr Arvantis said the study also included volunteer organisations which could be neglected by other research.
“Volunteers might not have access to the support a traditional workplace might be able to provide,” he said.
The project involves three phases – the first, a series of interviews with present and former police and emergency service workers, volunteers and their families about their experiences with mental health conditions, was conducted last year.
Phase two will roll out in the next few months, with a widespread survey being shared across the police and emergency service organisations.
“It’s a national quantitative study looking at the prevalence rates of good or bad mental health and wellbeing,” Mr Arvantis said.
“We’re also looking at attitudes to mental health and what services and support people have access to.”
He said this would include representatives across gender, location and seniority in the different services.
The third phase will involve identifying solutions and strategies.
“By the end of 2018 we will have a real blueprint to identify what organisations can potentially do,” he said.
He said the study focus would also consider what barriers were in place to limit people from accessing help, such as stigma, and come up with strategies to remove these.
SAFECOM health and wellbeing coordinator for CFS and SES Jane Abdilla said this study was an opportunity for the commission to understand the people within its volunteer services.
“We’re encouraging our volunteers to participate to get a clear idea of what the issues are so we can make sure our resources are on target,” she said.
She said this study was also a chance to raise awareness of mental health and the importance of asking for help early.
- Details: Lifeline 13 11 14.