Student researcher

Dr Heather Bancroft Research Leader

Firefighters have a predictable risk of exposure to traumatic events during the course of their work and a proportion will develop mental health problems as a result.  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?

This research project will lead to:

  1. A greater understanding of mental health problems, protective factors & resilience amongst firefighters.
  2. The development of a range of initiatives aimed at prevention, early identification & intervention, & appropriate organizational management of posttraumatic mental health problems.

Data collection for this study began on 19 October 2015 and involves an online survey of firefighters in ACT Rural Fire Service, ACT Fire and Rescue, Country Fire Service SA and the NT Fire and Rescue Service. Following the survey a representative group of survey participants will be invited to participate in a telephone interview. If you would like more information about the study please contact

Year Type Citation
2019 Thesis Bancroft, H. Wellbeing of firefighters: the impact of individual factors, potentially traumatic event exposure, and operational and organisational factors on mental health outcomes. Medicine, Dentistry and Health Services Doctor of Psychiatry, (2019).
2018 Conference Paper Bancroft, H. Prevalence and predictors of mental health in firefighters. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Bates, J. Research proceedings from the 2018 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
Wellbeing of firefighters
25 Aug 2014
This project aims to investigate the wellbeing of Australian urban and regional firefighters as well as the...
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 contribute most to...
Heather Bancroft Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016
This study will improve our knowledge of the prevalence of mental health disorders amongst Australian...
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 and alcohol...
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),...
03 Sep 2019
What is the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse...