Student researcher

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 heather.bancroft@unimelb.edu.au

Year Type Citation
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).
2018 Conference Paper Bancroft, H. Prevalence and predictors of mental health in firefighters. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
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