Study finds stress affects one in three emergency workers

One in three police and emergency services workers experience high or very high psychological distress compared to one in eight Australian adults, according to a new study.

The national study commissioned by Beyond Blue and led by researchers from The University of Western Australia in partnership with Roy Morgan Research found nearly half the employees and one in three volunteers in emergency services are diagnosed with a mental health condition in their life.

The research also found that half of the employees experience a traumatic event in their work that deeply affects them.

More than 21,000 first responders took part in the study “Answering the call”, with respondents answering questions about their wellbeing and resilience, anxiety conditions, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts.

Lead researcher of the study UWA Professor David Lawrence said the results confirmed that mental health issues were more common in police and emergency services agencies than in the general population and among other occupations.

“Despite this, individuals and teams do not always seek the support they need with many concerned about the potential impact on their careers and work and the stigma involved in addressing mental health issues,” he said.

“The study is very important as it provides evidence to help identify ways for agencies and the community to improve mental health and wellbeing in the sector, and to support the people who protect us when they also need help themselves.”

The mental health and wellbeing survey is by far the largest ever to be undertaken among police and emergency services organisations with the largest amount of participants.

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the results would arm everyone with unprecedented national data and insights from those who serve to protect us and keep us safe.

“It is now everyone’s responsibility – governments, agencies, police and emergency services personnel and their families, unions and peak bodies, services and other stakeholders – to come together to convert this evidence into further action and lasting change,” he said.

“Beyond Blue will support the sector to do this; to analyse and use the research findings to continue to focus on the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency service personnel.”

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