World-first study measuring police and emergency services workers’ wellbeing at work

Apr 26, 2017

In a world-first research project, beyondblue is collecting data on a national scale about the wellbeing of police and emergency services workers. The three-stage research project aims to help save lives and improve the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services personnel throughout Australia.

Police and emergency services workers have a tough job. Often working long hours on shift work, with exposure to potentially dangerous and traumatic situations. 

Exposure to trauma at work for these workers can be a significant contributor to developing symptoms of common mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

However, initial stages of a new research project by beyondblue suggest workplace culture and practices are also a significant contributor to the prevalence of mental health conditions for these workers.

The research also suggests police, ambulance, and fire services workers experience different kinds of stigma associated with mental health conditions, requiring a tailored approach for each service sector.

The National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services aims to build a comprehensive picture of the mental health and wellbeing of current police and emergency services personnel in Australia, and support agencies and other key stakeholders to take action using the findings. 

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Image: ©iStock.com/tomlamela 

Following the initial stage of the project in 2016, which saw researchers Whereto Research gathering data via interviews with participants, the second stage of the research is now kicking off. 

This stage will see 20,000 current and former personnel from 35 police and emergency organisations across Australia invited to participate in a survey about their mental health.

Workers will be asked about their wellbeing, common mental health conditions, suicide risk, stigma, help-seeking behaviour, and factors that support, or jeopardise, workers’ mental health on the job.

This second stage is being conducted by The University of Western Australia and Roy Morgan Research, with a generous funding contribution from The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, a national not-for-profit organisation researching issues of importance to Australia’s fire and emergency service authorities. 

The National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services intends to generate data that is useful for every police and emergency services agency in Australia.

The study aims to deliver practical and tailored actions, developed with agencies and other key stakeholders, to improve the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services personnel and reduce their risk of suicide.

The third stage of the study will draw on a range of perspectives from the police and emergency services sector on how the findings from stages one and two can best be translated into practical improvements in the mental health of police and emergency services personnel across Australia. 

This stage will also support police and emergency services agencies and other key stakeholders to ensure that these strategies are translated into concrete action.

The research is expected to be finalised by December 2018.

Read more 
Read beyondblue's media release

Find out more about our work with police and emergency services workers

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