Heather Bancroft

PhD student
Heather Bancroft

Firefighting is a dangerous and stressful occupation which involves a predictable risk of exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs). A proportion of firefighters will develop mental health problems.  Fire services have a duty of care to ensure a best practice approach to trauma management in order to minimize the adverse impacts of trauma. There is also a financial imperative, as psychological injury claims represent a significant economic cost. The regular PTEs that firefighters are exposed to include threats to their own personal safety, grotesque sights and smells, exposure to massive destruction, multiple fatalities, deaths and/or significant injuries of children. In addition, firefighters work in uncomfortable conditions, deal with distressed members of the public, and when first on-scene may be required to provide an emergency medical response. There are also inherent occupational factors such as working shiftwork and long downtimes followed by intense activity which contribute to the stressful nature of their work.

This study will build on the limited existing research and  will provide a better understanding of:

  1. The impact of firefighters’ work on their mental health
  2. The types and range of occupational stressors
  3. What organisations can do to minimise the impact of the organizational stressors by developing relevant policies, procedures, strategies & interventions.

 The project will focus on the following research questions:

  1. What are the rates of mental health problems among firefighters?
  2. How do firefighters rate on key outcomes such as job satisfaction, post-traumatic growth & quality of life?
  3. What is the relationship between organisational or traumatic stressors and mental health outcomes?
  4. Which individual and organisational factors moderate &/or mediate the relationship between the stresses, trauma exposures and mental health outcomes?
  5. How do the study outcomes compare to the findings of national & international literature?



Student project

Firefighters are amongst the least-researched emergency service population, despite their high risk of exposure to trauma. This study will improve the knowledge of the prevalence of mental health disorders amongst Australian volunteer and career firefighters, as well as the understanding of the range of factors contributing to better and worse mental health outcomes. This knowledge will assist fire services to know what policy, practice and programs may need to be initiated or modified in order to minimise the negative impact of work stress on mental health outcomes, and maximise positive mental health outcomes.
Prevalence and predictors of mental health in firefighters
18 Sep 2018
This study aimed to identify the prevalence and predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD...
Improving our knowledge of the mental health and wellbeing of firefighters
30 Jun 2017
This study aims to:Identify the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety...
Heather Bancroft Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016
This study will improve our knowledge of the prevalence of mental health disorders amongst...
What Factors Contribute to Better and Worse Mental Health in Firefighters
18 Aug 2015
This project aims to investigate which individual, operational and organisational factors...
Wellbeing of firefighters
25 Aug 2014
This project aims to investigate the wellbeing of Australian urban and regional firefighters as...

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