|Title||First responder mental health: Fire and Rescue New South Wales experience|
|Publication Type||Conference Paper|
|Year of Publication||2017|
|Publisher||Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC|
Over the past decade, along with research into military populations, there has been strong interest in the mental health of first responders such as police, firefighters and paramedics, who are at risk of exposure to potentially traumatic events. For example, Harvey et al (2016) studied current and retired firefighters in NSW and found higher rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and alcohol misuse compared with the Australian adult population. Results also revealed that organisational strategies for support, treatment, and injury prevention could be enhanced. This research informed the development of FRNSW’s strategic mental health framework including principles, policy and interventions. Furthermore, this framework reflects recommendations included in recent audits of emergency services’ mental health programs, for example Metropolitan Fire Brigade (Cotton, 2016), Victoria Police Service (Cotton, 2016), and the ‘Good practice framework for mental health’ developed by Beyond Blue in their study of first responder agencies in several Australian states and territories (Beyond Blue, 2016).
This paper reports on FRNSW’s ‘lifecycle’ approach to mental health care, which covers a firefighter and their family from recruit to post-retirement. This program builds on the existing and long-standing peer support program (in place since 1994), mental health literacy training, leader training, and initiatives to address stigma and barriers to care. Also covered will be an outline of programs developed with our partners at the Black Dog Institute, UNSW, and University of Sydney including a resilience program for recruits and incumbent firefighters.