By the nature of their work, emergency services sector first responders (staff and volunteers) may be repeatedly exposed to difficult, stressful and traumatic events when directly responding to incidents, or indirectly through supporting their colleagues. Through these exposures our people are often at a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues or crisis.
In a review of the emergency services sector’s mental health strategy it was identified that there is extensive support and education in responding to traumatic events for our people through the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commissions’ (SAFECOM) Stress Prevention and Management (SPAM) Program.
However, the review also identified a critical training gap relating to our people not having the knowledge and skills:
To recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems
On the possible cause or risk factors for mental health problems.
In how to provide appropriate initial help and support to someone experiencing a mental health problem.
To deal with a mental health crisis until appropriate support arrives (i.e. SAPOL or SAAS). This may include suicidal behaviours, panic attack, stress reaction to trauma, threatening psychotic behaviour (which may be drug or alcohol induced).
These skills are critical to our people, especially those who are geographically isolated and may have to wait longer for support agencies to arrive when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.
In order to address I have become an accredited trainers t0 assist in the facilitation Mental Health First Aid Training state-wide for the SA Country Fire Service, State Emergency Service and Volunteer Marine Rescue.