Emergency workers, such as paramedics, police officers and firefighters, have some of the highest rates of poor mental health. This is not surprising considering the repeated trauma that they face as part of their work day. Issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), significant depression, anxiety and sleep disorders affect emergency workers at a much higher rate than the general population.
In 2018, Beyond Blue conducted a study into the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency workers and found that one in three police and emergency services employees suffered from high or very high psychological distress, compared to one in eight Australian adults. While emergency workers reported suicidal thoughts more than twice as often as the general population.
As our emergency workers provide such a vital service to the community, it’s essential that we ensure their health is well cared for.
The recent bushfire emergencies around the country have put a great deal of added stress on our first responders. Not just on the incredible volunteer firefighters, but all first responders including police and paramedics as well. We know from the tragic Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009 that it can sometimes take years for the mental toll to become apparent.
While the bush regrows and the blackened, burnt landscape turns green once again, the mental wounds left behind, often hidden for some time, can have a devastating impact. A Beyond the Bushfires report, written by the University of Melbourne, surveyed those worst affected by the Black Saturday fires and discovered people were still impacted three to four years later. Many suffered the delayed onset of PTSD which can be highly debilitating.
Support for Victorian emergency workers
In mid-2019, the Victorian Government announced a pilot program for current and former emergency workers and volunteers to access funds to cover medical expenses while they’re awaiting the outcome of compensation claims for work-related mental health injuries.
At present, Victoria is the only state is Australia offering emergency workers and volunteers access to these kind of payments.
Other support channels for emergency workers
Each emergency service should provide access to counselling and other services, but the stigma still prevents some workers from seeking help.
There are some other places where you can go if you believe you or a loved one needs help:
Contact Shine Lawyers
If you have suffered a mental injury during the course of your work, you may be entitled to compensation. Our workers compensation experts can help you receive the assistance you deserve.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 3, 2020.