A LANDMARK health study of the state’s Metropolitan Fire Service has estimated about five per cent of firefighters meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with nearly all members experiencing traumatic events during the course of their work.
The ‘MFS Health and Wellbeing Study’, commissioned by the MFS and carried out by The University of Adelaide’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, documents the physical and mental health of 578 firefighters during the year 2014.
MFS Chief Officer Greg Crossman said the open, honest input of the participating firefighters will now benefit the mental and physical well-being of the MFS workforce into the future.
“Other emergency services agencies across Australia will be able to take learnings from this ground-breaking study, so the benefits will stretch beyond South Australia,” he said.
University of Adelaide’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies Director, Professor Sandy Mc- Farlane, said the study is the first of its type internationally and allowed a comparison with the mental health of the wider Australian community and the Australian Defence Force.
“The report has highlighted that there are significant mental health and well-being issues among firefighters stemming from the nature of their work”, Prof McFarlane said.
The challenge now is to optimise preventive measures so that those who volunteer their services to protect the community, are able to have a long career without adverse consequences to their mental and physical health.”
The study’s results have prompted the MFS to establish a new Wellness and Safety Department aimed at enhancing its existing support systems and preventing physical injury and mental health issues for its members.
One of the department’s first initiatives will be the implementation of mental health first-aid training, to better equip staff to identify if a colleague requires help.
For assistance in a mental health emergency, phone Lifeline (13 11 14) or beyondblue (1300 22 46 36).