Instilling resilience in our first responders

Aug 19
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In a world-first study, the Black Dog Institute has revealed promising strategies for embedding psychological resilience in emergency service workers and first responders. 

There are over 80,000 fulltime emergency workers in Australia. By definition their roles entail highly challenging working conditions and regular exposure to traumatic incidents. Over half of emergency service responders have experienced traumatic events which affected them deeply and the risk of psychological distress and PTSD increases with length of service. 

The below graph depicts figures provided by the Black Dog Institute which demonstrates the likelihood of mental illnesses in first responders as compared to the general public.

Over the last decade there has been a growing focus on preventing cases of mental illness through modifying risk factors or by teaching mental health resilience skills. 

The study was based on research which suggests that resilience training can play a key role in creating mentally healthy workplaces and the long term well being of employees. Given the nature of the work of first responders, it was found this specific group of workers could benefit dramatically from this form of proactive resilience. 

The study examined whether an online program, Resilience@Work Mindfulness Program, could boost psychological resilience in high-risk workers. 

“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 study found the program significantly increase mental resilience, boosted mindfulness, optimising and the use of health coping strategies. 

“Despite a number of limitations, the results of this study suggest that the RAW Mindfulness Program is an effective, scalable, and practical means of delivering online resilience training in high-risk workplace settings,” the report stated.

It is believed to be the first time a mindfulness-based RTP delivered via the internet has been tested in the workplace.

The Developing and Implementing Preventative Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategies for First Responders Masterclass is an opportunity to discover new strategies to embed effective mental health and well being strategies to protect your employees and improve mental health literacy in your organisation. This intensive masterclass is running in Perth from 19 – 20 September, Melbourne 23rd – 24th September, Sydney 26th – 27th September, and Brisbane 30th September – 1st October. 


Submitted by Criterion Content Team

Criterion Content Team

This post has been written by the Criterion Conferences Content Team. Based in Sydney, we are an independent research organisation, producing over 90 conferences a year across a variety of industries. Our events, attended by thousands of senior delegates from the public and private sector, are designed to enrich, inspire and motivate. Our focus is on providing innovative, value adding content via our conferences and blogs like this are extension of that principle. You can view our conferences by visiting our website

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