World-first study brings new hope for first responder mental health
Published: 5 February, 2019
There is no doubt our first responders deserve the very best protection. Now world-first research will see emergency services workers become better equipped to take on the many mental health challenges of their demanding roles.
UNSW’s Workplace Mental Health Research Team, the Black Dog Institute and Fire and Rescue NSW recently completed a study to examine whether an online mindfulness-based resilience program could boost psychological resilience in high-risk workers.
The study, published last night in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), found online resilience training- the Resilience@Work (RAW) Mindfulness Program- significantly increased levels of psychological resilience, and successfully boosted mindfulness, optimism and the use of healthy coping strategies.
“Bolstering resilience is important for all workers; however, it is particularly important for emergency services workers, with their challenging roles putting them at greater risk of conditions including depression and PTSD,” said Sadhbh Joyce, Senior Psychologist and PhD Candidate at UNSW’s Workplace Mental Health Research Team, based out of the Black Dog Institute.
“First responders face unique challenges, and it is important they are provided with the very best training and support; however, the psychological skills we teach firefighters are relevant to workers in all sorts of high-stress roles.”
The findings of this world-first study- funded by the icare foundation and NSW Health- highlight that online resilience training can play a key role in how organisations develop and maintain mentally healthy workplaces.
Fire and Rescue NSW is proud that research undertaken with its workers will go on to support the mental health of many others. RAW Mind Coach, an enhanced version of the e-learning program used in the study, will be rolled out within Fire and Rescue NSW as part of its proactive mental health program. The program has also been rolled out to Reuters journalists worldwide and is currently being rolled out to over 5000 employees at NSW Ambulance. With mental illness costing the Australian economy $12 billion per year in workplace sickness absence and long-term work incapacity, and around 1 in 5 workers each year experiencing a mental health condition, most organisations are still yet to implement evidence-based training to bolster worker resilience. It is hoped that the use of e-learning will overcome many of the barriers organisations face and make it far simpler to equip workers with the skills they need.
A leader in mental health research, the Black Dog Institute is increasingly seeking to drive innovation and support the development of evidence-based programs such as RAW Mind Coach, which delivers broad-scale impact.
“Beyond developing understanding, there is a need to develop practical solutions,” said Black Dog Institute’s Chief Psychiatrist, Director of Discovery and Head of UNSW’s Workplace Mental Health Team, Associate Professor Samuel Harvey.
“As an organisation we take great pride in this type of practical research, which provides another evidence-based tool to help create more mentally healthy workplaces.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis please call one of the following national helplines:
LIFELINE COUNSELLING SERVICE - 13 11 14
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE 1300 659 467 (cost of a local call)