Research from Charles Sturt University (CSU) has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic may have a deep and lasting impact on Australia’s first responder community.
The research, which involved over 1,500 first responders, highlighted significant pressures around increased workloads, and a compounding anxiety related to a constantly changing work environment, access to PPE and clear communication and information.
In response to the study, John Bale, Managing Director of Fortem Australia, an organization dedicated to supporting the health and welfare of first responders and their families, said, “The paramedics, police officers, and firefighters we see, talk of the real fear they have of bringing COVID home with them to their loved ones – some have taken to sleeping outside the family home to protect their family.
“Going into this, the first responder community was already showing higher signs of mental distress than the general population,” Mr Bale said.
Key findings from the CSU study were that:
• The proportion of respondents with severe depression and anxiety was 10 and 4 times higher (respectively) than the general population.
• The level of workplace burnout was very high with over half showing high levels of emotional exhaustion (burnout). Forty per cent of respondents are considering quitting their current job.
“Our community can’t afford to lose these key people and the expertise, skill and empathy they offer, especially at this time, so we have a moral duty to listen and respond to their call for help and support,” Mr Bale said.
CSU also highlights the power of gratitude and the need to thank our first responder community, something Mr Bale believes every Australian can easily play a role in.
“The study’s lead-researcher, Professor Russell Roberts calls on us all to acknowledge the good work of our frontline workers.
“Send a postcard, get the kids to do some artwork, make a poster for your front window, share your thanks on social media – simple things we can all do during these challenging times to show our support. And the thing with expressing gratitude is that the benefits also bounce back,” Mr Bale concluded.
To send thanks and gratitude to your local first responders using this email address: email@example.com
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