People in police and emergency service roles, which include police, paramedics, fire and rescue and State Emergency Service personnel provide care and protection to the Australian community. Sadly, the levels of anxiety, depression and suicide among this group of people in general are too high and seem to be growing.
Not only do police and emergency services personnel routinely face ‘life and death’ challenges, they witness very distressing situations and experience the same types of workplace stress and conflict as employees in other occupations. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that police and emergency service personnel who retire or leave the job may have high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide.
In 2014, Beyond Blue established the Police and Emergency Services Program to promote the mental health of police and emergency service personnel and reduce their risk of suicide. The Program is for current and former/retired employees, volunteers and their families.
The objectives of the Police and Emergency Services Program are to:
- Reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions, attempted suicide and suicide among police and emergency service personnel
- Increase the number of police and emergency service personnel taking action to manage their mental health and support colleagues they may be concerned about
- Increase the number and capability of police and emergency services organisations taking action to create and maintain mentally healthy workplaces
- Increase and improve the public awareness and appreciation of the unique and challenging role fulfilled by police and emergency service personnel.
The Good Practice Framework
In collaboration with a range of Australian agencies and experts, Beyond Blue has developed the Good practice framework for mental health and wellbeing in first responder organisations. The Framework provides information about the range of programs and practices required to effectively promote the mental health of police and emergency services personnel and reduce suicide risk. Recently updated to include insights from the three-phase National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services, it is intended to be used as a practical guide by police and emergency services agencies to develop or renew the mental health strategy in place for their organisation.