PA response to mental health inquiry recommendations

The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders

On 14 February 2019, the Senate Standing Committee for Education and Employment Inquiry into the role of Commonwealth, state and territory Governments in addressing the high rates of mental health conditions experienced by first responders, emergency service workers and volunteers tabled their report to the senate: ‘The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders’.

After being accepted in the senate on 27 March 2018, the committee received 161 submissions (a large number were confidential) and after seven public hearings the committee produced 14 key recommendations.

Paramedics Australasia broadly supports the 14 recommendations and the holistic strategy that seeks to understand the mental health injuries and suicide of our first responders in order to bring better future outcomes. Collecting and analysing comprehensive data underpins the recommendations along with an inclusive approach that incorporates current first responders, individuals who were previously employed as first responders and those working in jurisdictional services, private organisations and defence, in addition to volunteers.

Over the coming months, Paramedics Australasia will assess the recommendations in consultation with other stakeholders and our Mental Health and Wellbeing Special Interest Group to determine how we can support and enable the committee recommendations.

In addition, at PAIC 2019 – Broadening Horizons, Hobart 28–30 November – a mental health and wellbeing panel will be convened to address the Senate recommendations and track the programs that will support the recommendations. This will be an interactive session with panel members including Senator Urquhart and PA Vice-President Simone Haigh, who championed the inquiry with support of the Senator.

Senate recommendations

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that the government work with state and territory governments to collect comprehensive data on the occurrence of mental health injuries and suicide in first responders.

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the federal government work with state and territory governments to collect data on the cause of death for first responders who die while employed or die within 10 years of leaving their service.

Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that federal, state and territory governments work together to increase oversight of privately owned first responder organisations.

Recommendation 4

The committee recommends that a commonwealth-led process involving federal, state and territory governments be initiated to design and implement a national action plan on first responder mental health.

Recommendation 5

The committee recommends that compulsory first responder mental health awareness training, including safety plans, be implemented in every first responder organisation across Australia.

Recommendation 6

The committee recommends that compulsory management training focussing on mental health, such as that developed by the Black Dog Institute, be introduced in every first responder organisation across Australia.

Recommendation 7

The committee recommends that mental health support services be extended to all first responder volunteers.

Recommendation 8

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government establish a national stakeholder working group, reporting to the COAG Council of Attorneys General, to assess the benefits of a coordinated, national approach to presumptive legislation covering PTSD and other psychological injuries in first responder and emergency service agencies. This initiative must take into consideration and work alongside legislation already introduced or being developed in state jurisdictions, thereby harmonising the relevant compensation laws across all Australian jurisdictions.

Recommendation 9

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government, in collaboration with the states and territories, initiate a review into the use of independent medical examiners (IME) in workers’ compensation.

Recommendation 10

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government establish a national register of health professionals who specialise in first responder mental health.

Recommendation 11

The committee recommends that a consistent approach to referrals to rehabilitation counsellors be developed across states and territories, requiring referrals to be made by general practitioners not associated with employers or insurers.

Recommendation 12

The committee recommends that early intervention mental health support services be made available to all employees of first responder organisations with the aim of preventing or reducing the severity of mental health conditions.

Recommendation 13

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government make funding available for research into the prevalence of mental health conditions in retired first responders.

Recommendation 14

The committee recommends that ongoing and adequate mental health support services be extended to all first responders who are no longer employees of first responder organisations around the country.

The full report and recommendations can be accessed here

PA would like to thank all members who contributed to the inquiry, including our Vice-President Simone Haigh (who was recently awarded an ASM for her work in paramedicine and in spearheading the inquiry) and especially Anne Urquhart, Senator for Tasmania, for being the driving force behind the inquiry.

The hard work has just begun. Paramedics Australasia will continue to advocate for paramedics on this highly important matter. Read the report and start having the conversations in your workplace. Together, we can bring change.

If you need help, please speak up. Access your organisation’s psychological services or contact:

Lifeline
Tel: 13 11 14

MensLine Australia
Tel: 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service
Tel: 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue
Tel: 1300 224 636

headspace
Tel: 1800 650 890

Kids Helpline
Tel: 1800 551 800

Peter Jurkovsky, President Paramedics Australasia
Simone Haigh, Vice-President Paramedics Australasia