Promoting the mental health of police and emergency services personnel
Most people working in ambulance, fire and rescue, police and state emergency services (SES) manage the demands of the job well. A culture of camaraderie and loyalty can protect the mental health of personnel and contribute to their wellbeing.
Research indicates that exposure to traumatic stress and critical incidents may place ambulance, fire and rescue, police and state emergency services personnel at a greater risk for adverse mental health outcomes, including increased rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), burnout, stress-related anxiety, and suicide.
The nature of emergency services means police and emergency services personnel routinely face life and death challenges and can witness very distressing situations. Like other workers, they can experience common workplace risks to mental health, such as heavy workloads, high demands, and bullying. Stigma regarding mental health conditions is still prevalent in many traditionally male-dominated occupations, such as emergency services.
There are practical steps all police and emergency services organisations can take to promote mental health and reduce suicide risk within their workforce. The Good practice framework for mental health and wellbeing in first responder organisations provides practical guidance on how to take action.
The Framework identifies five core areas of action:
There is a wide range of initiatives to promote mental health that should also be considered across the career of a police or emergency services employee or volunteer. Each organisation should think about their specific needs and consider which strategies will be most useful. Suicide prevention needs to be one of the ultimate objectives of any mental health and wellbeing strategy.
For organisational leaders
For police and emergency services personnel at all levels
Find out more about taking care of your own mental health and supporting your colleagues.
1. Instinct and Reason (2014). Employer of Choice Study. Retrieved February 2016: https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/instinct_and_reason_employer_of_choice.pdf?sfvrsn=4
2. Standards Council of Canada (2013). Psychological health and safety in the workplace — Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation. CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013.