The Mental Health of Emergency Service First Responders, Veterans and Family Support to Navigate Help-Seeking

About the course

Presented by: Dr Louise Roberts and Prof Sharon Lawn.

Dr Elaine Waddell & Wavne Rikkers (Senior Research Officer Graduate School of Education University of Western Australia) will join the group as presenters and discussion support

Paramedics attend and care for others and work in an environment which is physically, emotionally, and psychologically challenging. Paramedics are often overlooked when considering their own mental health and mental health needs. This webinar presents an of overview data from an international scoping literature review and national research into paramedic mental health. The presentation also details current research and preliminary results into Veterans and First Responder Families and Help-Seeking.

The introduction will set the scene and discuss the results from the international scoping literature review addressing paramedic mental health which focused on qualitative research and the national commission into the mental health of emergency services members. Results from ‘Answering the Call’, a world-first national study of the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services, will be used to provide an overview of mental health and wellbeing in the ambulance sector here in Australia, including individual and workplace factors that promote and inhibit mental health, and to highlight the importance of seeking appropriate help at the time it is most needed. Free text survey responses will also provide a compelling insight into the impacts experienced by family members living with an emergency services worker.

The final part of the presentation will present the preliminary findings from our study into family support and navigating help-seeking when living with veterans and emergency services personnel who are experiencing mental health challenges. Details of the research are outlined below.

Veterans and First Responder Families and Help-Seeking

We are currently (2021) undertaking research to understand the role of families in recognising and supporting early help-seeking among veterans and first responders from across the Police, Fire and Rescue, Ambulance or State Emergency Services sectors with emerging mental health issues. We want to know how families can be better supported, given they are often among the first to know when something is not quite right, or can see that the person is struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.

So far, we have heard how families often don’t know who to turn to for help, information and support. They have told us that their veteran/first responder family member often strives to keep work stressors separate to their home life and that ensuring confidentiality in seeking help is of concern. Families have made a number of suggestions for what is needed, including dedicated family peers support with training to help support families. Of interest, family participants have highlighted the moral injury that they also feel when their family member experiences mental health challenges in their chosen and committed career; particularly when they struggle to receive the support they need from the veteran / first responder organisation.

We have interviewed several family members already and would like to hear from further family members (spouse, former spouse, parent, sibling, adult child, other close relative) to contribute their expertise and experiences to this important issue.

Presenters Biographies

Prof Sharon Lawn is a mental health researcher at Flinders University, with a focus on the perspectives of people with lived experience of mental health systems. Sharon is a national mental health lived experience consumer/carer advocate and current Mental Health Commissioner for South Australia.

Dr Louise Roberts’s main interest and principle research expertise is in the out-of-hospital management of mental health presentations. Her PhD explored how paramedics identify, assess and manage psychiatric presentations in the community. Dr Louise Roberts has led and contributed to narrative literature reviews into the management of low acuity presentations in the pre-hospital setting for the Victorian Ambulance Service. She has collaborated on national research into men’s lived experience with mental health and paramedics understanding of mental health and AOD presentations (Beyondblue and Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Centre). She has also conducted research into State and Territory Mental Health Acts and how paramedics are represented in those Acts and how this has informed the development of clinical practice guidelines. Recently she has contributed to research into PTSD and its effects on partners of veterans and emergency first responders and current research addresses the physical, psychological, psychobiological and psychosocial health of operational ambulance staff. She has been lecturing in mental health (since 2007) and paramedic science (since 2012). She has published and presented in this area.

Presented by Dr Louise Roberts and Prof Sharon Lawn

Course Lessons

Course Information

55 minutes
5th Feb 2021
Member free
Non-member $19
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