Today’s environment presents many challenges for first responders, with ever increasing duties and responsibilities, our roles within society have changed. As firefighters, there are a few simple steps we can do to help build our resistance, resilience and increase our ability to handle the demands placed on us – regardless of the role we play in the fire services.

Look after your crew

The first line of defense when it comes to looking out for firefighters – is you.  If someone at your station is normally a bright and talkative person and you find them to be withdrawn or unusually quiet – ask the question.

“Are you OK?”

It might be a gesture as simple as ‘come on, let’s grab a cuppa’ that makes the world of difference for someone. These are the people that we trust with our lives on the fireground, we should continue that trust and support in the fire station as well. 

Encourage help seeking behavior

The negative stigma that surrounds mental health, particularly with emergency service workers, can create an environment where people in need are pushed away from the support they require. We need to move towards a culture of acceptance and have mental health treated as seriously as we treat our physical health. 

Know what support services are available and encourage others to make contact if required. Gone are the days of it being acceptable to ‘bottle it up’, promote having good mental health as something that is just as important as having a healthy body and lifestyle.

Speak with your station commander or captain to find out what services are available and how to contact them.

Undertake realistic training

Realistic scenario based training designed to put firefighters into situations that replicate those of real world incidents is a great way to prepare your crew and build resistance.

Having firefighters put through the motions of turning out, responding to and arriving at incidents builds confidence levels, familiarity and allows firefighters to begin to build resistance to potential traumatic events. 

Don’t spend every training session just running hose drills – plan out scenarios and have firefighters alerted, prepare at station, “respond” and then arrive at a mock incident. It will not only cement training techniques in a safe “fail friendly” environment, but it will strengthen bonds between firefighters and begin to build realistic expectations of live incidents.

Where you can go for more information

Look internally – your fire service will have support programs in place. Speak with your captain, commander or local office and find out how you can reach them. 

There are also plenty of external providers which all offer different methods of support.

  • Lifeline“Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.”
  • Headspace –  “headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 yearolds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing. This covers four core areas: mental health, physical health, work and study support and alcohol and other drug services.
  • Blackdog Institute – “The Black Dog Institute is a not-for-profit organisation and world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.“
  • beyondblue – “beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.

Look after each other and stay safe.

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